Published on October 14th, 2013 | by Jared Booth0
Review: a Showcase of Ryan Bonner, Gaslight Street, and Guilt Ridden Troubadour at the Hall
Guilt Ridden Troubadour, Ryan Bonner, Gaslight Street
Charleston Music Hall
On Sat. Oct. 12 at the Charleston Music Hall, three local frontmen led three talented groups through three sets of fantastic music. The occasion may have been a triple album release show, but it felt more like a local music showcase, as each band featured multiple memorable performers.
All three leading men — Reid Stone of Guilt Ridden Troubadour, Campbell Brown of Gaslight Street, and Ryan Bonner — were at their best and had the top musicians in town surrounding them, driving them to new heights.
The overall MVP had to be keyboardist Whitt Algar, who put himself in rare historical company by playing piano for all three bands. How often is the piano player a lynchpin for three bands — on the same night? It was great to see such a talented player continually get it right, providing the backbone for three entirely different-sounding bands. He was the rock.
Stone and Guilt Ridden Troubadour started the first set of the night with “Hold on Tight,” the quietest song on Gone, their new album. While it may have been softer, it hit a nerve with the crowd, bringing everyone in to the intimacy of the moment. The band was also joined by longtime Charleston singer and friend John Wesley Satterfield, who moved to Nashville last year, and Corey Stephens, who is seen often around town playing with Columbia-based Josh Roberts and the Hinges. The ensemble closed with a smile-filled version of the get-down anthem “Little More Ground,” which brought many in the crowd to their feet.
With a more jam-based but also rocking set were Campbell Brown and Gaslight Street, another strong ensemble. With Ben Kinser on bass, Stratton Moore on drums, Dan Wright on guitar, Algar on piano and organ, and Noelle Pietras on backing vocals, the crew rollicked through the full, powerful sounds of new album Heavy Wind. Pietras was especially impressive, mixing great stage presence with serious vocal chops. She looked like a natural up there, even singing lead on one track. The group was tight, playing with precision but never to the exclusion of soul; making for a fantastic overall sound buoyed by Brown’s artistry up front. The set also featured another great visit from a local guest, Marshall Hudson of the Royal Tinfoil, whose bluesy harmonica carried one tune.
The third set, from Ryan Bonner and the Dearly Beloved, showed off still more monsters of the local music scene, most notably bassist and harmony vocalist Malin Wagnon and Jordan Trotter, who also lent near-perfect harmony. While Wagnon’s strengths as a vocalist are well known among fans after having played with Bonner for years, Trotter was also a star, adding a female voice that I didn’t know Bonner’s songs needed. Trotter and Bonner had great chemistry and positively killed it on the duet “Walking in Circles,” which Cary Ann Hearst sang with Bonner on his last record, Think of England, and was rerecorded for the new record, Only When It’s Burning. Cellist Lonnie Root also added another layer of harmony with his instrument, creating a richness previously unseen.
At one point, in a moment of rest after a particularly strong line of harmony, there was a look on Bonner’s face that encapsulated the point of it all — his beaming smile showed why musicians write and perform. They do it so maybe once in a while they’ll get a look like that on their face.
Although Bonner has been one of the strongest songwriters in town for years, the best track on Only When It’s Burning is actually a cover, New York-based songwriter Owen Beverly’s powerful “Legs and Scars.” Singing it live, Bonner outdid the original, throwing all of himself into the angst-smothered, driving song, which features what may be the best fuck-you-to-an-ex line ever written: “I hope he leaves you in the night/Hands down on the bathroom floor/‘Cause you’re the reason I don’t wear my seatbelt anymore.” Bonner and crew then kept the rocking going with a fun cover of local trophies Shovels & Rope’s “Boxcar.” Bonner played the Michael Trent role while Wagnon did a phenomenal Cary Ann Hearst impression.
Although someone in the crowd shouted “I Shall Be Released” for an encore, Brown and Stone returned instead for a fantastic ensemble version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” Wagnon once again provided great falsetto, Algar was honored as the “hardest-working man in town,” and the rest of the participants in this showcase of supreme local talent basked in the release of all the emotion they’d surely been saving up for this special night.
Photos by Stratton Lawrence.
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