w/ Lauris Vidal
Live at the 40 Watt in Athens, GA – March 14, 2016
By John Mikeska
The mood inside the iconic 40 Watt was fitting for this historic venue on Monday night. Opener Lauris Vidal played with the fire of a headliner to begin the evening. The one-man tour de force utilizes percussive accompaniment with his feet while navigating an impressive array of instruments. Lauris’ on-stage demeanor portrays an infectious zest for life and a no-reservations presentation that engages the audience.
He plays with a percussive, finger-style approach to the guitar that engages the mind and speaks to the soul. Lauris played through a set of slow-train-a-comin’, bluesy songs that have a languishing yet decided groove about them – much like steam coming off a moonlit street that knows exactly where it’s going, but taking it’s time to get there.
Lauris’ weighted, heartfelt groove tugged at the corners of the heartstrings before realizing a rousing crowd moment as he ascended from his chair to exclaim “I need my spirit free!” to a clearly inspired audience.
The sensible rock n’ roll of Blitzen Trapper’s early material found it’s way into the evening’s set with a healthy addition of their more contemporary sounds. As an impressively cohesive band, they provide a strong musical backdrop for the storytelling narratives that abound in their songs. At times, and in contrast with their lyrical presentation, the band achieves wildly raucous moments amidst lurid soundscapes that appeal to deep rooted Americana sensibilities.
As if to demonstrate their capabilities and wide array of influences, the band showed themselves to be fully capable of a low-country get down at any moment. “Love The Way You Walk Away” was clearly a crowd favorite of the evening. As the music moves through instrumental passages, they manage to dig their heels into the space between verses, and build to maniacal proportions before artfully finding their way back to the song. In this case, the groove opened up before disseminating into “Come Together” for a unique take on the Beatles’ original.
The dynamic between the two-guitarists provides an interesting example of Blitzen Trapper’s tasteful approach. While clearly capable of shredding a guitar solo, they seem to favor a cohesive approach that’s more song-driven.
A noteworthy appeal of the band surrounds the level of dedication and appreciation from their fan-base. The crowd grew as the night went on and the delighted concert goers hung on every word as they made there way through material that has clearly been part of their lives for some time. Blitzen Trapper plays a soundtrack to a storybook narrative for the listener that blends the understanding of where you’ve been and where you are in a profoundly relatable way.
After they reclaimed the stage, they came back for a healthy four-song encore that featured gorgeous harmonies, slowed down material, and heavy-leaded moments that the crowd lapped up gleefully. Without question, Blitzen Trapper played the most fitting venue in Athens and made sure to compliment The Classic City and it’s honored traditions.