James Durbin Entertains
James Durbin Acoustic Show Review
Three years ago, James Durbin exploded onto the American music scene as a captivating underdog on Season 10 of American Idol. During that whirlwind year, Durbin finished in the Top 4 and gained tremendous popularity, playing all of the late night talk shows, hitting all of the big arenas and churning out a quick album that peaked in the Top 10 of the album rock charts.
Since that breakthrough year, things have settled down a bit for the young rocker and he’s just wrapped up his second album, the soon to be released CELEBRATE. This time around, he took his time and put together a collection of songs that are more reflective of the musician he has become. He’s co-written all but one of the new songs and plays guitar on all of them, and on this night he clearly made them all his own.
Read our recent interview with James for some more of his thoughts: James Durbin chats with Cretin.
He’s eschewed the bigger rooms across the country for a chance to play toned down acoustic shows in intimate settings, such as the cozy Will’s Pub on this night. With a comfortable grey jacket and tight knit cap he unassumingly took to the stage with his two band mates and simply shared his music as if playing to a group of friends. He was joined on stage by long-time friend Jeremy Cross on percussion in what Durbin dubbed his “baby drum kit,” and Craiglist find Justin Kastner on bass. They were solid, if under-stated, but this show was all about Durbin.
The crowd of less than 100 was treated to a special evening. Durbin interacted with the crowd often during the show and was comfortable and witty throughout. At one point, reflecting on his days as a Karaoke host, he offered, “tip your bartenders, don’t be a dick.” His most humorous interlude was talking about the troubles with his tour bus. The vehicle is driven by their tour manager Noah Brown has been affectionately nicknamed Noah’s Ark.
As affable as he was on stage, this tour is a spotlight on his musical talent. His guitar playing was solid all night, but truthfully was over-shadowed by his voice, which was simply spectacular.
Early in the set, we had a chance to hear his new single “Parachute.” The song had a different feel performed acoustically, but it’s clear that it has hit potential. He spent about half of his hour long set unaccompanied, and during this time poured his soul into the music and nailed every vocal. The majority of the tracks were from the new album, and as he acknowledged, will sound much different when the album comes out and we hear the full production version, but on this night, the stripped down approach was priceless.
Grab a copy of the new single on iTunes here: Parachute – James Durbin- Single
The title track off of “CELEBRATE” was a highlight. Driven by his tremendous vocal range, it was punctuated by a nice whistling finale. The highlight and biggest surprise of the night was when he reached deep into his past for an unexpected surprise. In our pre-show interview linked above, he had told me not to expect any Idol flashbacks, but the crowd was in for a nice surprise. ”I haven’t played this song in three years (since American Idol). I’m gonna try it, and if I fuck up ill just stop! Have a little faith.” He strummed a few bars looked up and offered “”I can do this; this will be magical, and then thrust into “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Fantastic stuff.
Other highlights included the crowd favorite, “May,” and the stunning vocals of “Higher Than Heaven” and “Love in Ruins,” as well as a creative version of “Fool For You,” with his own creative ‘tribute’ to Bruno Mars. (If I bungled any of these song titles, let me know)
This tour is one of those rare opportunities to catch a rising star in an intimate, stripped down and honest setting, simply doing what they do best. If the tour heads through a city near you, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
By the way, I loved the fun and creative set by opener Kelley James which was highlighted by his freestyle spin on golf and weed. Great stuff in a set that was filled with highlights.