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For The Lone Bellow, familiarity breeds even more success

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, November 21, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Familiarity didn't seem to breed any contempt for The Lone Bellow. In fact, just the opposite for the New York trio, making its fourth appearance in the area since February.

That has only served to increase the fan base of the rootsy, sometimes country, more often soulful group, as they headlined a sold-out crowd of about 930 at the venerable rock club.

Once again, it was quite easy to see why as The Lone Bellow is the full package: musical chops, great songs and inspired singing.

Zach Williams is the focal point of the band as he takes most of the lead vocals, and he is quite adept at putting the songs across with his soulful sound. He also is a good front man with a healthy dose of charisma in leading the crowd (not all that big a surprise as he also has been a church music leader in Brooklyn). At times, he actually did serve as a conductor to the audience, which was more than ready to pitch in and sing along.

Williams cohorts - Brian Elmquist on guitar and Kanene Pipkin on mandolin - also were up to snuff with both taking turns on lead vocals, but more importantly contributing numerous harmonies, shifting the songs to a higher plane.

As usual, The Lone Bellow were aided by a bevy of worthy songs ranging from the lead off I Let You Go to the catchy single that sticks in your head, Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold to the sorrowful ballad Two Sides of Lonely.

For having been to Beantown so many times (Williams pointed out that they appeared in Boston the memorable Saturday night following the Boston Marathon bombing, the first night that people in the city went out en masse), the show did not have any sense of ho-hum.

Instead, The Lone Bellow introduced something a little bit new and a lot different during their two hours on stage. During the encore for reasons unknown, Williams broke into Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) with Pipkin later turning in Circle of Life from "The Lion King." Movie themed songs seemed to be the guiding light. Different.

But then it was back to their own sturdy songs, closing the night out with Looking For You and Teach Me to Know.

Given their track record, The Lone Bellow ought to be back in short order. Fortunately.

Opening act Aiofe O'Donovan made another return home as she grew up about five miles from the club, but this audience did not show her the love. O'Donovan, who released a solo disc earlier this year, has a pretty voice and good material (Oh, Mama), but her problem continues to be how her voice sounds in a particular setting.

O'Donovan tended to go softer, somewhat breathy, something that remains characteristic of her performances. The problem was that doing so didn't lead to a commanding presence in a club this size. And that may have had something to do with the crowd yapping a tremendous amount during her stint. On this night anyway, home cooking was not exactly served up to O'Donovan.