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Abbott brings the joy - even with "Front Row Seat"

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., January 27, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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To say that the Josh Abbott Band's "Front Row Seat" is an easy listen, especially in concert, would be a tremendous understatement. The Texas country singer released a five-act recording about the development, joy and ultimate dissolution of his marriage last fall.

Not exactly easy subject matter, but Abbott managed to bring more than a little joy on this evening. In fact, he did so right from the beginning with "Live It While You Got It" from "Act 1 Exposition" of "Front Row Seat" about the physical pleasure of his budding relationship.

From there, Abbott would intersperse songs from "Front Row Seat" with material throughout his career.

The follow-up, "Hanging Around," is a joyful, bouncy song with a lot of fiddle courtesy of Preston Wait. This was the kind of song that would be a sure-fire set closer, guaranteed to get the crowd screaming for an encore, but Abbott clearly had the confidence to place it early in his 110-minute show.

The good-time feel was underscored by songs such as "Where's the Party." It wasn't hard to get the enthusiastic crowd moving.

Like a good chunk of Texas country performers, Abbott boasted a Texas-centric bent with songs like "She's Like Texas" and "My Texas." But, unlike some of his compadres, he didn't need to put it in anyone's face.

Abbott has reason to label his act the Josh Abbott Band. Decked out in a white cowboy hat, he's a good, not great, singer with a bit of a sandpapery voice. It took a bit to get his voice mixed right, but once it was, the concert settled in. Having a passel of quality songs - both serious and fun - also helped.

So does having a superb backing band. While lots of so-called country acts eschew fiddle these days, Wait was front and center in song after song. Caleb Keeler played a double-necked guitar and did his job in sticking the fills. Show opener Carly Pearce was particularly welcome in in reprising her vocal prowess on the album of "Wasn't That Drunk" and "Oh Tonight" (on the original, Kacey Musgraves provides the vocals). She proved to be an excellent foil for Abbott, displaying a sexiness that fit the material.

Abbott made for a fun night of music, despite the sometimes difficult subject matter. Life probably did not exactly turn out for Abbott as he had planned, but like any good country performer, it sure made for good material.

And a fine concert.

Tucker Beathard preceded Abbott with a set that rocked way more than his October show at the Paradise where he opened for Maddie & Tae. Having a backing band will do that for you. There was a denseness to the material, but Beathard, who just turned 21, was not a particularly dynamic performer.

While he has penned "Homeboy" for Eric Church, he did not offer any sounds that would make you categorize him as country. No wonder he had a song, "Rock On."

Pearce opened the show with a solo acoustic set showing her to be a good, engaging singer, who could use stronger material.