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For The Lone Bellow, no opening night jitters

The Paradise, Boston, February 12, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Zach Williams walked onstage alone with his acoustic guitar in hand and gave an audible sigh before launching into "To the Woods." And thus launched the beginning of the 2015 tour of The Lone Bellow.

Williams, lead singer of The Lone Bellow, surely could not be sighing because of any concerns about hitting the stage and the reception the trio might get.

One would have been extremely hard pressed to think that Williams was telling the truth when he said that this was the first date of the tour.

Maybe it's the heavy duty touring schedule the Brooklyn band seems to have kept up since releasing its debut in January 2013. Or maybe it's just that The Lone Bellow's brand new "Then Came the Morning" release translates well into a live setting as did the self-titled debut.

Whatever the excuse, these guys are at the top of the game as they showed yet again in a sold-out, transcendant show.

The success of The Lone Bellow - which also includes Kanene Pipkin on mandolin and backing vocals and Brian Elmquist, on (mainly) electric guitar and vocals, plus a backing drummer and keyboardist/bassist, who is also Pipkins' husband - starts with the songs.

They suffered no sophomore slump on "Then Came the Morning," with its alt.-country mix of rock, country rock, R&B and gospel. The band apparently has a lot of faith in the disc also, playing 12 of its 13 songs. Some tended to rock just a bit more, but the buoyancy of the songs and their earnest delivery are palpable.

Further evidenced needed? How about putting "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold," perhaps the best known song off their debut, in the middle of the set and starting it with a chunk of The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)? Or starting and ending the regular set with new songs (the harmony driven, sped up "Take My Love" on the closing side).

It's not hard to see why The Lone Bellow connects extremely well with its fans, even the self-serving guy who yelled from the back "You're fucking incredible" or something like that during a very quiet song where you could otherwise hear a pin drop.

This is a band built on heartfelt intensity. The songs wreak of that with a bunch of songs about relationships. Williams takes on most of the lead chores, and he's a worthy front guy. Affable and appreciative, he also isn't afraid to make you think he's lived every word of which he sings.

The Lone Bellow does have a lighter side with a short cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" and continuing with the R&B idea on the encore with K-Ci & JoJo's "All My Life" and Joe's "I Wanna Know" before going back to Houston for some of "I Will Always Love You."

Pipkin and Elmquist tended to offer backing vocals and harmonies, with Pipkin's pretty voice coming to the fore in "Call to War." Elmquist also took lead vocals (the slow, religious-themed "Watch Over Us"), providing the chance to spread the love. And when they simply backed Williams, they didn't hold back either, particularly Pipkin.

And they got down with the crowd literally. Williams went into the crowd once on his own and returned with Pipkin and Elmquist, on the closing "Teach Me To Know." It all seemed real as if stating the obvious - that crowd and band were one.

The band retreated to the stage for their final bows. No wonder Williams left the stage with Pipkin and Elmquist pumping both fists raised into the air. No opening night jitters here.