Adam Ezra Group packed Boston’s City Winery last Sunday night. Combing a mix of their usual live show fair with some new material, AEG gave a lively performance for their Hub crowd. The comfortable venue was large enough for the sound to travel yet it maintained a sense of intimacy, a good vibe for the band to share new material.
This band has a way of plunging the audience right into the action. Opening with their original “The Toast,” the group immediately had their huge audience singing along. The hopeful song, infused with sweet harmonies, moved along its floating groove. Next think you know, AEG is easing their way through some new material titled “I‘m Gone” and “All Right Today” before playing The Band’s “Ophelia” and its homespun roots rock momentum. Bass player Poche Ponce then went into a funky low end solo that turned into the group‘s “Life Of A Thief,” its acoustic roots instruments married to primitive groove.
Ezra sat down at a keyboard and fiddler Corinna Smith picked up an accordion. Together, they wove the fabric of something he wrote with John Oates called “All I Am.” The keyboard ballad unfurled like a combo of catchy pop and singer-songwriter faire. In the live setting, it was the tender vocal that stood out.
A new song titled “All Right” was sweetly textured by the accordion, better yet, it turned into a drum solo from Alex Martin featuring his complex twists from each piece, pounding loudly melodically. A new folksie piece featured Ezra, Smith, and Pounce on harmony vocals without instruments. The room roared its approval for “Find A Way” before AEG went into their darker, brisker “Devil’s Side” before they offered their neo-hippie tune “You Speak Girl.”
AEG’s opening act Clint Daniels came up to sing a song he has written with Adam Ezra titled “Switching To Whiskey,” a song part country roots and part singer-songwriter material. The two perfectly captured the feeling of needing a drink. Speaking of special guest appearances, Ezra called his mother Joanne up to sing a song where she matched his vocal strength on the harmonies. Another new song, “Hold On To Each Other” was also well received by the open minded audience before the maturity of notes made “A Boy’s Song” something to behold.
One of the main features of any Adam Ezra Group show is their “Devil Went Up To Boston” parody of the The Charlie Daniel Band song “The Devil Came Down To Georgia.” Not only does Ezra’s Boston accented twist with his colloquial local slang make the song a hoot, fiddler Corinna Smith bows a mean take on the fiery, hissing melodic evil as well as the good natured fiddle playing of the mortal character. One expects to see fire coming out of Ms. Smith’s fingertips when she tears into that comedic rendition.
“Juna Please” cruised along like a breezy, folk-lounge song, if there is such a thing. Its climbing action, a song that keeps building in emotive momentum, kept tugging at the ears.
The sparkling keyboard notes of “Miss Hallelujah” were another treat as Ezra caressed the tender, supportive lyrics with his handsome, sandpapery vocal. “14 Days” was, as ever, a haunting, daunting rocker with lyrics of dire fate, a vibe made deeper by the fiddle tones and by the eerie sound of the entire ensemble. Ezra’s harmonica lines gave a touch of dark folk music to it, thickening the song’s strangely appealing lyrics before the tune segued into Josh Gold’s demonic fiend, his effects pedals turning his keyboard into a fiery, grinding guitar sound.
“Let Your Hair Down” felt like the antithisis of “14 Days,” its tuft of hopeful lyrics and buoyant currents of rhythm and anthem like chorus is one that became a sing along moment for many in the crowd. Delving into their last studio album, Hurricane Wind, AEG delivered a stirring performance of their “I Believe,” another spirited song of hope with a full hearted feeling. That fullness materialized from each band member playing an understated part in the number. Those parts added up well.
Ezra’s banjo and Smith’s fiddle were put to good use creating a menacing rustic folk sound on “Steal Your Daughter.” The contrast between spiritualism and suggested sensuality was striking in the live format, as always, and this tune’s marching beat, courtesy of Alex Martin, made the lyrical drama feel like an inevitable end to a fearful fate. Smith’s hissing fiddle line added another layer of intensity to this song’s many moving parts coming at the audience at once, intricate and overwhelming, as only such a story could be told.
Protesting the traditional manner in which a band pretends to finish a show before the audience hollers them back to encore, AEG did their own thing. They all went out into the audience, taking up position in the center of the venue’s row of tables. There, they called Clint Daniel back to sing a Merle Haggard song with Ezra before moving onto The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” another sing along that ended the evening on as fine a note as it began when Clint Daniels opened the show.
As opener, Clint Daniels captured the audience’s attention with his ruggedly handsome voice, solid strumming, and lyrics that made his personal experiences universal. Daniels’ combo of low end notes with rippling high notes gave his songs plenty of support and likely motivated many to purchase a copy of his Brown Bottle Blues CD. His best number was “You’re My Best Place To Hide.”