INDIANAPOLIS, IN – It definitely takes more than talent to get into the music business nowadays. When every Tom, Dick, and Harry, has a portable sound system and a camera at their fingertips its hard to stand out. Talent has unfortunately been left by the wayside, and it takes a hell of a lot of drive and character to make it. It was easy to see by the sold out status of the show and by the passionate anticipation in the eyes of the fans waiting to get into The Hi-Fi that all of these things were more than present. It was obvious that what was about to happen was more than just a normal concert. It was one of those shows that seemed to be shaping up like it had two headliners, and the swells of people forming outside the club were antsy to get in so as not to miss a beat. By the time the doors of The Hi-Fi opened the sidewalk was swamped with good humored yet slightly fidgety people, but the friendly staff at the door seemed to really care about every single one. They took the time to make sure every patron was having a good night before they even walked up to the dance floor. There was not an unhappy face in the house as the crowd eagerly awaited the show.
Andrew Combs was the first act that would be gracing The Hi-Fi’s stage for the evening. Combs is a songwriter, guitarist, and singer out of Nashville, and originally from Texas. His style is a wonderful medley of classic country and contemporary pop. He has the ability to weave tales of love, sin, and redemption into his beautiful and sometimes sorrowful melodies while still somehow remaining unabashedly upbeat. He sang with a voice that sailed out into the crowd swirling down around them and wrapping them like a warm blanket on a cold night. Combs has one of those winning smiles that a person can’t help but grin at right back so the sea of people stretching out before him all seemed tickled pink. By the middle of the performance their smiles were so wide that all the glistening pearly teeth lit up the room like the moon.
The bandmates providing Andrew Combs with the phenomenal music to his lyrics displayed every bit the genius that his songs deserved. The spectacularly talented group of men even included a Hoosier Native on keyboards, and he was definitely making his home state proud. The set included the title track off Combs’ latest album, “All These Dreams“, and a fantastic version of “Emily” where Andrew invoked the crowd into participation until the whole room was filled to the brim with harmonizing modulation. Even though the stage was a little close for comfort Combs and his band all somehow found room to dance right along with the crowd, and they sent out and received back a symphonious perpetual energy.
A short intermission did nothing to derail the crowd’s good spirits, and Anderson East took the stage immediately exceeding the high expectations that preceded him. His voice seems to bring forth memories from a time not so long ago where the sultriness of the likes of Otis Redding and Tom Waits were still ever-present. Like a lot of musicians, East plays multiple instruments, but unlike them he came about his talents on his own after a life of musical starvation. He is the grandson of a Baptist Preacher, and says, “It was a tiny southern town with no music scene at all. All I can remember hearing was talk radio. The only time I heard music at the house was Sunday morning before church when my dad would listen to country music.”
The music scene in the Alabama town where East was raised was devoid of choices, so he soaked in, and was influenced by anything he could get his hands on ranging from Led Zepplin to Snoop Dogg. This eclectic range of mentors makes his music shine, and sounds like a kind of country soul rock with a side of the blues. The evenings set list displayed the same motley crew of influences as well with covers like “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey closely followed by a phenomenal rendition of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey“. Anderson even paid tribute to the legendary David Bowie with a stellar version of “Rebel Rebel” backed by a cast of musicians with such an endowment for their crafts that the notes sailed up through the roof to the clouds, and had Bowie smiling down from the heavens above.
It was obvious within a few minutes of the show that Anderson East isn’t just a talented musician. He’s also a well-seasoned comedian, a spectacular storyteller, and an epic lady charmer. There appeared to be an escalated amount of twitterpation coming from the first couple rows, but it was obvious that it didn’t stop with the fairer sex. The entire crowd was in awe of every single second of the performance and every syllable spoken or sang out of the lips of East. The charm didn’t stop with Mr. East, either. A very charismatic and dapper electric guitar player that goes by the name of Scott Murray wielded his instrument with a fury sending vibes energized with a pheromonal heat out into the night egging on the crowd even more. Anderson stopped the show for a moment to tell the Hoosier laden crowd about his special love for their city, and even took a moment to regale them with tales from some of his earlier trips to Indianapolis in his younger days. He spoke of the first show that he played with bass player John Murray at the Do317 Lounge above The Hi-Fi, and then Scotty Murray took over to lay a moment of truth on the people before a return to the music with an explosive performance of “Satisfy Me“. East brought the newly invigorated audience back down from the clouds and into his arms again with a stirring serenade of “All I’ll Ever Need“. He passionately crooned the words, “Your love is all I’ll ever need!” to his fans, and his overwhelming sincere love left them yearning for more. Anderson East is an extraordinary musician and a charming southern gentleman that was missed by his fans the second the music stopped, and it’s beyond ensured that the welcome mat will always be waiting for him at the door of this great Hoosier state.