Singer/songwriter Amos Lee lulled the crowd into a gentle stupor this past Saturday, April 9 at the Variety Playhouse. Lee, a Philadelphia native, is a relatively new guitarist on the music scene. His first album debuted in 2005. The self-titled album topped Billboard Top Heatseekers chart at No. 2 in March of that year.
Since then, Amos Lee has become somewhat of a commercial success. His other three albums, Supply and Demand, Last Days at the Lodge, and Mission Bell all have peaked on Billboard charts. Most notably, Supply and Demand peaked at No. 76 on Billboard 200.
Originally an elementary school teacher, Lee left teaching to pursue a career in music. He first produced a five-song EP which generated buzz around the Philadelphia area. However, he first truly gained fame in 2004 as an opener for Norah Jones’ second tour. From there, Lee increased in fame to tour with others such as Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan.
Amos Lee, known for his use of the gentle guitar, is an artist of lullabies. His musical styling fuses blues, soul and folk together into an amalgamation of relaxation. If you are into James Taylor or Bill Withers, Amos Lee is for you. His soft, sweet melodies are a rough hybrid between those artists. All of his albums promote an environment of calm and ease, though each album is sprinkled with a few upbeat tunes. Drawing influence from his childhood, current experiences and predominately love, Lee’s albums reach a wide audience.
Lee created an environment of seduction and leisure at last Saturday’s show. “Careless” and “Dreamin’” were two crowd favorites along with “Stay with Me” and “Won’t Let Me Go.” Listeners softly swayed to “Flower” and “Black River.” Most of his song choices were off of his newly released album, Mission Bell. Lee was still sensitive to older fans, playing other celebrated songs like “Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight” and a new upbeat rendition of “Sweet Pea.” Standing center stage amidst a six-person ensemble, Lee created an air of comfort not only with his music but also with his friendly dialogue between songs. Surprisingly, in the middle of the concert, the ensemble retreated back stage, leaving Lee to soothe the crowd with simplistic acoustical bliss. This broke up the monotony of the concert and gave the crowd a fresh sound.
The vocals were set against a backdrop of gently colored lights, each tuned to the sentiment of the song. The use of visuals to complement the song was done quite well. For his more relaxed songs like “Black River” and “Careless,” Lee moved blues and purples throughout the stage. In his more upbeat songs, he danced around pinks and oranges in the background on the Variety stage, creating a visually simulating environment. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was not conducive to the soft acoustic sounds. The amount of people took away from the intimacy of the music and created distance in feeling and attitude which took away from the cohesion of his music and lighting.
All in all, Lee delivered what he sells: soft, seductive folksy blues. Bringing both new and crowd favorites along with creating an environment of relaxation, Lee brought what was to be expected. Truth be told, his lullabies were enjoyable for the first 30 minutes but they began to sound too alike halfway through his acoustic solo.
His lullabies also started to rock a few too many people to sleep during the latter half of the concert. Lee, though a clearly talented musician, did not deliver anything thrilling and in close, gave a fairly average concert.