Sam Hunt ventured to Thursday night, playing a sold-out show at the House of Blues.
Life is real good for Hunt, who is enjoying his current number one "Take Your Time," which follows "Leave the Night On." Hunt also has been at the top of the Billboard Country Albums chart with "Montevallo."
The House was a change of venue for Hunt. That was particularly good news for him because the show was moved from a far smaller club (The Paradise, capacity of about 930 people) to the HOB and 2,400 people. Not bad for a guy who was the opener on a three-act bill only in November.
Despite riding high on the charts, Hunt has received backlash for stretching the boundaries of what is considered country music. I am among the people saying that because his music has very little, if anything, to do with country - even for what is considered country these days. I'm not talking about Johnny Cash or Hank Williams country. Or even Garth Brooks. Then again, that may not be his fault. I'm not so sure the singer is responsible ultimately for how he is marketed. That's more the purview of the record label.
I was not at the Hunt show on Thursday. I was at the Paradise for an excellent set by the alt.-country trio The Lone Bellow in the opening night of their tour.
But what caught my attention about Hunt's show was a review I read this morning in The Boston Globe, not a very positive one at all.
In the review by the very fine and typically very fair writer James Reed, he wrote "But something was different, amiss. Where his album was an intriguing collision of influences, his live show was a bloated spectacle with plenty of moving parts, and yet no core."
"To give you a sense of Hunt's country bona fides, you could hear a banjo on "Ex to See." But it was nowhere to be found onstage; it was plucking away on a backing track."
It's that last sentence that is particularly disappointing. Why does a seemingly professional musician have to fake it with a tape assuming Reed is correct? Of course, Hunt would not be the first to do it, but so what? That doesn't make it right. It's as if taping music is tacked on, needed to flesh out the country sound, but not worthy enough to be played live.
Has the idea of a live performance become such a spectacle that the ability to do it real has gone by the wayside?
Using tapes results in the question of what's real and what's fake throughout the show? Are vocals enhanced (also unfortunately not so unusual these days) or auto-tuned live? Whatever happened to aunthenticity?
The fans paying the bills deserve the real deal, not a deceptive tape. An artist - and I use that word advisedly - who resorts to such shenanigans is hardly deserving of a sell out next time around.