Royal Festival Hall
added: 10 May 2014
// gig date: 9 May 2014
reviewer: David Spencer
This is a step-up in size of venue for Amos Lee, compared to his previous UK visits as a headline act. As he refers to himself during this impressive varied show, he has come from playing in the corner of bars to London's Royal Festival Hall. "I didn't even know there were people up in the sides" he says after the lights reveal the boxes on his left and right. "It looks like that scene in The Matrix" he astutely points out. It could be said that like much of that film, Amos Lee is hidden underground from many in the UK. That's despite a US number one album (2011's Mission Bell) and a classy catalogue across a range of genres.
In fact, tonight displays that broad repertoire in a style that might even surprise some of his more loyal followers who have packed the venue. There will be country, folk, Americana, blues, soul, R&B and a surprising full on rock-out. Lee is accompanied by a full-band, having previously performed in London with a much more stripped down show, and the performance is brighter and more impressive as a consequence. The singer has an imposing stage presents, he is tall and broad, but with a warmth that makes him feel like a large cuddly bear; just with a voice from the heavens. But that warmth allows a connection, which is exemplified when he performs Arms Of A Woman without microphone, checking with those at the back that they can hear before he begins.
After an opening featuring Windows Are Rolled Down and the sublime Chill In The Air (from his latest album Mountains of Sorrow, Rovers of Song), Lee allows his excellent band a breather, while he performs an acoustic sweep including Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come; one of the most important songs in American history according to Lee.
There are more cover versions to come, with the band rejoining the singer for a Celtic infused session, inspired by his appearance during the Transatlantic Sessions, where different musicians from the folk and country scene in Britain and US get together. Here there is jubilant rendition of Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls and Destiny Child's Single Ladies. They seem to be having great fun - and the joy spreads around the hall, as the band fans out for the final part of the gig - when the volume is turned up and Lee revels in moving into over-time as the American's call it (his scheduled end is 10pm but he plays well past that).
Of his own material, there is a good spread across his five albums, including Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight from his 2005 debut to Stranger from the his latest release. Amongst the highlights are an emotional performance of Jesus (about his late-grandfather) and Violin from Mission Bell. The performance underlines what a classy act Amos Lee is and the as the size of venue proves, his UK audience is growing. Who knows it could be the Royal Albert Hall next time. He deserves it.
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