Anderson East is one of Nashville’s hottest properties at the moment, putting his own modern spin on the classic Motown sound. Hot on the heels of his second album Encore, he’s currently in the middle of a world tour to promote the new record, including a sold-out show at London’s Omeara.
East arrived on stage just after 9pm backed by his seven-piece band, who squeezed onto the tiny stage, and instantly launched into his cover of Ted Hawkins’ Sorry You’re Sick. You could feel the 60s soul influences coming through from the jazzy intro and East’s smoky vocals balanced alongside this nicely. He finished the song with a huge James Brown-esque yell of a note and the audience went absolutely wild.
That set the tone for the rest of the evening, with East showing off his amazing range on songs such as the funky Girlfriend, the fast-paced and fun Surrender, the uptempo Satisfy Me and the sultry All On My Mind. Throughout the show he kept the energy in the room up, moving around the stage to jam with his band, break out some expressive moves or even encourage his guitarist to dance! Although it took him a little time, once he settled into the performance he also had great chat with the crowd, including cracking jokes in response to heckles and a random discussion about condiments (as you do). It was clear he was feeding off the energy in the room, frequently encouraging the audience to clap along.
However, the moments where I felt East really shone were in the slower, subdued songs. His soulful spin on Willie Nelson’s Somebody Pick Up My Pieces provided an a capella finish where you could hear a pin drop, whilst throughout the atmospheric layered Delilah you could see the emotion of the song etched all over his face. Although he frequently hit big powerful notes in songs such as If You Keep Leaving Me and the big soulful finish to the Otis Redding-esque Learning, he kept great control throughout and I was seriously impressed.
One of the standout moments for me was East’s performance of Without You. Its sweeping intro and simple arrangement put me in mind of Joe Cocker’s version of With A Little Help From My Friends, and East’s vocals were emotional yet restrained. I also loved This Too Shall Last, with its smooth delivery, soaring melody and Anderson’s impressive guitar playing.
After leaving the stage to thunderous applause, East returned alone with his guitar and delivered a heartfelt impassioned speech thanking the crowd for coming to the show (and, in a first for me, they thanked him back!) and the importance of being in the moment. He then delivered an utterly beautiful performance of Cabinet Door, which held the crowd completely spellbound with its lonesome sparse melody allowing his heartbreakingly gorgeous vocal to stand out.
East closed the show with the driving rhythm of Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em And Forget ‘Em, which got the crowd dancing along, and the old-school gospel House Is A Building. These two songs summed up his whole performance to me – not only the power and soul in his voice, but allowing his band to show off their skill as musicians and his ability as a guitarist. You could see he was giving it everything he had and it showed how emotionally invested he was in delivering a great show for the crowd.
Overall I was completely blown away by Anderson East’s performance. It’s truly a joy to see an artist who clearly loves music as much as he does getting lost in the songs, and I found myself completely transported during his show. He’s a fantastic performer and a stunning vocalist, and I can’t wait for him to come back to the UK. When he does, do whatever you have to to get a ticket – I promise it’ll be worth every penny.
Set list: 1. Sorry You’re Sick (Ted Hawkins cover) 2. Girlfriend 3. Surrender 4. If You Keep Leaving Me 5. Somebody Pick Up My Pieces (Willie Nelson cover) 6. Delilah 7. Learning 8. King For A Day 9. Without You 10. Satisfy Me 11. All On My Mind 12. This Too Shall Last 13. Cabinet Door 14. Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em And Forget ‘Em 15. House Is A Building Performance date: 24th January 2018