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Wall, Bird ultimately make a perfect match

Sinclair Cambridge, Cambridge, Mass., April 15, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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In some ways, the pairing of headliner Colter Wall and opener Jade Bird was a tale of opposites, but in ultimately, the most important way, it was not.

Musically, except for an encore song of Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere," it would be hard to call Bird part of the country scene. Singer/songwriter perhaps or British folk.

In the case of Wall, there was no doubt he was a country singer with a chunk of old school-styled songs plus dipping into the canon of the likes of Townes Van Zandt.

Wall was not the paradigm of charisma. He talked with the crowd a number of times, but seemed to have a serious bent about him.

As for Bird, making her Boston-area debut, there was no holding back this tour de force. She was engaging, laughed easily and clearly fed off the excited crowd.

Exactly how were the scruffy looking Wall and the well-groomed Bird similar?

Simple. Both put on excellent shows.

Bird came out solo acoustic. There was no one else to help out either musically or vocally as she was flying without a net. That didn't seem to matter at all.

Bird had a vocal intensity that resulted in her all of a sudden singing with a vengeance. She went to the well a few time with her urgent vocals, but she also showed that was equally comfortable with quieter material .

With lots of downer relationship songs, Bird made sure to alter the pace just enough to ensure that the crowd didn't wander.

With an easy laugh and joking with the crowd, Bird was a singer who was made for the stage, but that in an of itself didn't make for a successful night on stage. With her single "Lottery" and a bunch of other songs of quality, at the very tender age of 20, she showed that she won't be opening shows like this much longer.

Wall isn't all that much older - he's 22 - but he sure seemed like an old musical soul.

His yardsticks musically are folks like Woody Guthrie and Van Zandt, but he also knew his way around traditional country songs from honky tonk to cowboy.

Times have changed for Wall in a short amount of time. Playing the singer/songwriter role, Wall came out solo acoustic for five songs, something he did less than six months ago when he played before maybe 40 people at an area club. This show before about 525 people was sold out weeks in advance.

He started with the traditional "Old Paint (Ride Around Little Dogies)," a good opener. He mixed up the rest of his 75-minute set between familiar and several new songs.

It's easy to see why Wall has so much respect for the songwriters of the world. He likes stories, something in short supply in country these days.

Whether his own or covers (he also tackled Ramblin' Jack Elliott's "Railroad Bill (Ride, Ride)" and Guthrie's "Do Re Mi," Wall paints pictures "(Thirteen Silver Dollars" and the murder ballad "Kate McCannon").

The new song "John Byers," was humorously introduced as a song about two rabble rousers in his hometown of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada, who settled their dispute by shooting each other's Camaros.

Wall has a gruff, whiskey-soaked voice, but it was authentic. He eventually sought out his band about a third of the way into the show and there was a lot of harp and pedal steel, underscoring the country element in spades. Wall certainly must have enjoyed a lot of confidence in his band to afford them the musical space they deserved.

Given that he was not the force of nature that Bird was, it mattered all the more that Wall's material be of quality. No problem there.

Wall offered no encore. He didn't last time around either. It obviously wasn't a case that he wasn't deserving. Maybe that was about the only thing that disappointed the crowd on this night when both opener and headliner were the perfect match when it came to the final outcome.