Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
on Pope has created a career the old-fashioned way - releasing albums independently and touring behind them. So, after a prodigious 12 albums since 2007, the Georgia native has built a pretty decent fan base.
And based on this outing, that should come as no surprise.
Pope is a likable performer with a sufficient amount of chops and stage presence to connect with this fans, including a funny story about keeping an eye on the opener Truett when the then teenager toured with Pope's band as an opening act in the college town of Athens, Ga. When he asked for one more refrain of the course to the closing song of the night and his most popular, "A Drop in the Ocean," the hundreds in attendance - many of them female - easily obliged.
Pope tends more towards the rock vein, but he also has a bit of a singer/songwriter Americana, country bent to his music.
Pope charged out of the gate with "Hell or High Water" from his latest, "Ron Pope & The Nighthawks," spurred on at the get go by the one-two trumpet/sax punch and neo-soulful vocals. The songs typically had more bite and punch in concert than on the recorded versions where the sound is more poppy and smooth.
Pope went front porch on The Fasces "Ooh La La" with all six band members (plus two opening acts) coming to the front of the stage with only Pope on acoustic guitar. The in-the-round version of the well-known song gave a different approach from Pope and band to good effect.
Pope utilized pedal steel as well on many songs to maintain a country/roots element. "One Shot of Whiskey" had an Avett Brothers feel to it. The pedal steel on "Atlanta," provided much texture on the quieter song. At another point, Pope sat at his keyboards turning in a satisfying "Fireflies" with the crowd singing along.
Pope could not be accused of being locked into a particular sound, and that worked to his advantage.
At one point in his career, Pope had a short stint on a major label - Universal Republic for two singles - but he soon went back to his independent ways. For Pope, that has been a good thing. So are his shows.
Jonathan Tyler preceded Pope with a solo performance that showcased some pretty decent songs. However, the Texan's sandpapery voice was not strong enough to really carry the material.