Saturday, August 3, 2013

Allen Stone Sits Down at Rockwood Music Hall

After seeing Allen Stone command the crowd at Brooklyn Bowl, I vowed that I would see many more of his shows.  So when a little bird (Sister Sparrow) tweeted in my ear that he was doing a free last-minute gig at Rockwood yesterday, the plans were set in motion to get there as soon as I finished work.  Once let in, I was able to get my favorite balcony seat in the house.  I ordered a beer and waited for the magic to happen.

To my surprise, it happened almost instantly.  Lyle Divinsky, a subway station singer-songwriter, walked out in his bare feet and sat on a stool in the center of the stage.  Donning a hat and vest, if only his pants would have been rolled up one ring higher, he would've resembled a grown Huck Finn.  And then he started to sing... a cappella.  If Allen Stone is the neo-soul wunderkind whiteboy from Washington, Divinsky is his counterpart from the other top corner of the map, Maine.  The audience was hooting and hollering after that first little taste, so Lyle grabbed an acoustic and led a singalong of his tune, "Come on Home."  "Y'all excited to see Allen Stone?" he asked.  Cheers. "Me too. But I hope you like what's leading up to it too."  Keeping time by paddling his feet off his stool, he kept the soul train coming with "Push On" and "Disaster," the latter of which featured a groovy little jam led by his uncle, Andy Argondizza, on guitar.  The crowd whooped spiritedly at the line, "Fuck you, Cupid!" during "Hit Man," and Divinsky channeled Otis Redding on a series of "I got to"s on "I Can't Believe the Way That You Love Me."  Lyle paused at the song's end, and announced, "So for these last two, it is my pleasure and my honor to welcome my favorite singer in the world, my dad, Mr. Phil Divinsky."  It was the epitome of a healthy father-son relationship as the two traded lines, smiling widely while the other sang.  Acts like Divinsky and Moon Hooch are why I always pause my iPod when I come across a performer on the platform.  You just never know.

Frances Cone Band was up next.  The plucky bass and drums that kicked off "Better Man" reminded me a little too much of "Come on Eileen," but the set improved from there.  I didn't envy her position, sandwiched between two vocal powerhouses, but she made do, using her smoky voice on a cover of the Black Keys' "These Days" that actually had me struggling to remember who originally sang it.  By the next number, "Mercy," Frances had also stepped out of her shoes, feeling the room's energy through the floorboards.

The Rockwood crew lowered the piano from the ceiling, setting the stage for Stone.  He emerged from the back hallway and grabbed a stool between Brent Rusinow and Trevor Larkin.  Thanking everyone for coming on such short notice, Allen strummed an acoustic guitar and began "A Change is Gonna Come."  Screams from ladies and shouts from dudes.  He passed the guitar back to Larkin, and invited Josh Rawlings to have a seat at the piano that was taking up so much real estate.  "Contact High" and "Celebrate Tonight" followed, Allen's voice impeccable in the room.  "
The more you drink, the better we sound," he offered unnecessarily.  "Amen, brother!" toasted a crowdmember.  Stone shot back, "Thanks for the vote of confidence.  Who the fuck invited you?"  The crowd chuckled, and Stone continued with "Quit Callin."  "We haven't done a show like this in a while. I can't remember the last time I sat down onstage," he remarked before "The Bed I Made."  It was amazing to see him in such an intimate setting.  Unfortunately, sometimes other people don't know how to behave in this situation, and I had to ask two yappy bitches behind me to quiet down.  Following "Sex & Candy," Allen stated, "We're gonna keep it in the same mood.  We're gonna do another cover song."  The song was "Is This Love."  Putting Marcy Playground anywhere near Marley for reasons other than alphabetical order is pretty much blasphemy, but I quickly forgot MP once he got to the chorus.  It was during this number that I looked down and realized what a special night it was.  This wasn't Allen Stone inciting a crowd to dance with a preacher-like authority; it was Allen Stone using his dazzling voice to make a room fall silent while his friend tickled the keys of a real, wooden piano.  Brent, on backup vocals, made hand signals to Josh to watch Allen for the end, but then found himself laughing in awe at Allen's vocal ability, not wanting the tune to stop.  Before the final song of the evening, "Last to Speak," Allen offered some words of advice not commonly given by rockstars: "Just be humble.  I believe that humility breeds confidence."  The audience listened with rapt attention as he spit the powerful lyrics.  No one even whispered, humbled by the man onstage with the spectacular voice.

ALLEN STONE - 08.02.13 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (54 minutes)

A Change is Gonna Come / Contact High / Celebrate Tonight / Quit Callin / The Bed I Made / Sex & Candy / Is This Love / Figure It Out / Unaware / Last to Speak

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