Friday, March 29, 2013

Live Review - The Revival Tour @ Irving Plaza

There is something about musical camaraderie that is, not only reassuring, but also joyous. Seeing musicians and friends get on stage to perform together is something fans love, no matter what the genre. When The Rolling Stones had their 50th Anniversary in December, they brought out a slew of guests from Jeff Beck to The Black Keys to Lady Gaga and Springsteen to join them. It was not just a once in a lifetime occasion to see these musicians play together, it was also fantastic to see that they were all friends. On a much smaller scale, that is the thesis to The Revival Tour. The Revival Tour, which is an all acoustic tour, began five years ago, is still going strong and this years line-up came through New York on Thursday night featuring Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music, Rocky Votolato, Dave Hause of The Loved Ones, Jenny Owen Youngs, and Toh Kay of Streetlight Manifesto, and mostly backed by Chuck Ragan's backing band.

The line-up walked on stage just after 8pm and embraced each other arm-in-arm and sang songs about drinking and Davey Jones, before retreating to the wings for Toh Kay to begin his solo set. The Streetlight Manifesto singer was like a Latin flamenco guitarist on his axe. Kay, who had many fans singing his songs from the packed Irving Plaza, was unlike the other members of The Revival Tour and did not have many of the other members of the line-up come on stage and sing with him. The whole experience of The Revival Tour is that at any given moment someone from the line-up could come out with whoever is on stage and jam with them. Kay had none of that and his set, in many ways, suffered for it.

After Kay, it was Brooklyn's Jenny Owen Youngs turn to hit the stage. Youngs, who is a firecracker on stage sang many songs off her new album, An Unwavering Band of Light, and had Ragan, Votolato, and Hause come on stage and play with her. Youngs, who is the only female on this leg of the tour clearly held her own with the boys and was so much fun to watch. Cracking jokes in between songs and covering Johnny Cash, it is no surprise that her name spells out JOY, because that was what he set was full of.

It was then onto Rocky Votolato, the singer-songwriter has become a cult favorite over the years and during his 20 minute set it was proof as to why. His music is about wearing your heart on your sleeve and making no apologizes for it. With most of the members of Rival 2013 joining him on stage, it was a fantastic set.

Then came Dave Hause of The Loved Ones. The Philly singer may be small in stature but he is tall in heart and soul. Hause, who sings about blue collar living and loving, took his punk-goes-acoustic set into a sing along with fans in the room. Always with something engaging to say and very humbled by the turnout, his set was one of the highlights.

It was then time for the main event, Chuck Ragan. The man who has curated, organized, and been the glue of The Rival Tour since day one is the wise man of the road and the father figure to each and every person on this tour, past, present, and future. Ragan, a giant man who looks more like a lumberjack than he does a singer in a punk band, is one of today's greatest songwriters and concentrating his set on his last (and best) solo album, Covering Ground, songs like "Wish on the Moon," "Valentine," and the powerful "Nothing Left to Prove," was enough to bring tears to anyones eyes and warm the soul of anyone with a big heart. While Ragan looks like he could have been the ancestor of a prize winning boxer, he is a very gentle giant and his kindness is the reason The Revival Tour lives on year after year.

While Ragan's set would down, the members of the tour returned to the stage for one final sing along and after over three hours of music, the price of admission would never cross the crowds mind, because  witnessing this tour is priceless.