Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hile it always seems exciting to have a concert tour start in your city, there are pitfalls as well for both artist and audience.
And that was on display during Shelby Lynne's opening night gig just two days after releasing "I Can't Imagine."
Part of the excitement of opening night was the chance to see Lynn at a small venue, a club at full throttle capable of holding 300 people. She didn't draw a packed house (ticket prices at the door were $65, about the second highest ticket price ever for the club), but seemed excited to be back out on the road.
Lynn played one set, but broke the show into two parts. Lynne played both "I Can't Imagine" in its entirety at the start of the night followed by her 1999 disc "I Am Shelby Lynne." Lynne also played the discs in order of song.
Whether that made the most sense was debatable. But the biggest problem Lynne had during the "I Can't Imagine" segment was simply being heard. Her vocals sounded fine, but as she said right before starting the "I Am Shelby Lynne" portion, "Can you turn me up a little bit?," she asked before referring to her band, "They're so fucking loud, I can't hear." (to be clear, she was not criticizing her band)
Neither could the crowd at times, perhaps leading to the appreciative, but not overwhelming response from the crowd. Having little familiarity with 10 brand new songs played in a row could possibly have that effect.
In comparison to what was to come, the "Imagine" songs were not high on the commercial meter. Pleasant enough, but requiring some intense listening particularly with some elusive lyrics.
"I Am Shelby Lynne" is considered to be the singer's break-out disc. Her sixth studio album garnered her the Grammy for Best New Artist of 2000. After recording country albums in Nashville, which met so so results, Lynn recorded "I Am..." in Palm Springs, Cal. with Bill Bottrell (of Sheryl Crow's "Tuesday Night Music Club" fame) producing. Lynne commented several times how she couldn't believe the music was 16 years old, but it didn't sound it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lynne sounded more confident and comfortable with the older material (even if she did forget the first verse to one song for awhile), which was a bit more on the bluesy side. Lynne may have started as a country artist, but those sounds were in short supply this evening.
The comfort level extended to Lynne's band as well. Ben Peeler was the anchor on guitar and lap and pedal steel. In fact, this was the line up's first show together ever, and they did a good job given that situation.
This was a concert that grew better as it went along with the material easier to digest as well. One suspects that the entire package ought to round into shape because expecting Lynne and company to do so from the get go would be asking too much.