"It's eclectic," said Amos Lee about three-fourths into his set at New York's Radio City Music Hall Saturday evening (Sept. 10). "It's an eclectic concert."
Sure, that's an easy thing for any musician to say, but Lee's set fit the bill, a 20-song two hours populated by everything from his 2005 self-titled, debut album to last month's Spirit, a No. 3 record on Billboard's Top Rock Albums chart with 12,000 copies sold in its first week, according to Nielsen Music.
Amos Lee's 'Spirit' Leads Debuts on Top Rock Albums Chart
The 39-year-old singer-songwriter was quite the chameleon from the get-go, waltzing out half a minute after the band began its warm-up music for set leader "New Love" as though he were the frontman of a soul or classic R&B act -- not that that's a stretch; after all, Lee's silky vibrato has always lent itself to a fluid shift between rock, soul, R&B, folk, you name it. He didn't even touch an acoustic guitar until 2005's "Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight," prior to then shifting effortlessly with his six-piece backing band between the gospel-tinged opener "New Love" and the banjo-led fervor of "Jesus."
Spirit marked a full embracing of the R&B side of Lee's repertoire, represented most fully with lead single "Vaporize," a No. 18 hit on the Adult Alternative Songs chart. But while Lee's affecting croon was welcome on any tune no matter the genre, Lee truly found his step once he went completely solo with earnest renditions of "Careless" and "Arms of a Woman," the latter dedicated to former Blue Note Records head Bruce Lundvall, who died last year at 79 and, according to Lee, would play the song to anyone who'd listen when the Philadelphia native's career was in its infancy.
From there, the band returned, albeit in more of an acoustic sense than the previous full-band sound, joining Lee at the front mic and sporting a banjo, dobro, accordion and more for rollicking Americana takes on "Supply and Demand" and "Tricksters, Hucksters and Scamps."
What the set showcased most of all was that Lee, no matter the paths he has taken musically so far and will continue to travel with his next record and beyond, will be forever rooted in that same soulful voice and lush, rustic songwriting -- so much so that despite the ever-changing sound of the evening, whether it was delicately strummed acoustic guitar ballads or jazz-y solos and rich, ebullient numbers, it always felt warmly familiar.
Not a bad time at a place like Radio City, where Lee returned after a co-headlining set in June 2015 with David Gray. As Lee himself put it: "I feel like a fish that's in the best fish tank in the world."
"Highways and Clouds"
"Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight"
"Running Out of Time"
"Seen It All Before"
"Arms of a Woman"
"Supply and Demand"
"Tricksters, Hucksters and Scamps"
"Baby I Want You"
"Windows Are Rolled Down"
"Cup of Sorrow"