Andy Davis, Elenowen, Stephen Gordon
By the time we arrived at the already fog-filled 12th and Porter Thursday night, Stephen Gordon had just finished his set. We were bummed to have missed this folksy crooner who knows how to illuminate his audience through song. But before we had a chance to get too sad about what we missed, the husband/wife duo Elenowen took the stage and lured the audience in with their tight harmonies and conversational lyrics.
They cut into the foggy room with their song “Ease My Mind,” Josh on acoustic guitar and Nicole layering on the beautiful harmonies and endearing smiles with a band behind them. While these two appeared the quiet, Americana type in their appearance on NBC’s The Voice earlier this year, their live show is an up-tempo folk to be sure. The venue was hot and sticky with the added humidity of the overworked fog machines, but people kept streaming in, and others kept making room for the newcomers.
After a couple more original, upbeat numbers, Nicole pulled out a mandolin and announced that she’s learning an instrument but that it’s going to be a surprise when she plays it. Then the duo launched into a cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” that favored the Ryan Adams cover with every bit of tension, undone emotion and angst you could hope for. Still, Elenowen somehow managed to make one of the most commonly covered songs their own.
The rest of their set included their most recent single, “Honey Come Home,” a compelling back and forth dialogue between a couple that rendered itself all the more believable because of the real-life marriage bonds of the duo singing it. Then, with a simple “We’re gonna slow it down just for a little bit,” the band left the stage and Elenowen launched into another commonly covered song with a famous cover, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which never fails to have the power to stir a crowd—the audience was actually shouting their approval at the onset of this tune.
After several more originals from Elenowen, they thanked the audience and left room for Andy Davis to take the stage. The crowd was as sweaty and overheated as artists in the heat of the spotlight, and we wondered how the musicians were hanging in there and bringing such a great show in the heat.
The temperature only rose when fedora-clad Andy Davis hovered over his keyboard and jumped into one of his high-energy tunes. Nashville loves Andy Davis, and their ardor was overstated this night as people shouted out their love and actually sang along and clapped. And who wouldn’t? Davis has a dynamic way of moving all over that keyboard and infusing his audience with his contagious energy. Backed by a full band, Davis paused after the first song and observed, “You guys are getting rowdy. I like this.” Someone in the audience shouted back ecstatically, “Rock on!” Needless to say, this isn’t the normal audience interaction at a Nashville singer-songwriter show.
Launching into his set with the full-throttle lungs of a soul singer and the agility of a 10-year-old, Davis played some new songs for his admiring onlookers, and though his sustain pedal went out on him mid-set, he never slowed down. Introducing a haunting new song, he said, “I kind of hope a rap artist covers this one. I mean, uses it and puts their own rap under it.”
After taking off his jacket (“It’s too hot in here to be wearing a jacket!”), Davis jumped into “Capital Letters” after which people started shouting requests. Prodded by the audience, Davis left his band for a minute and played an on-the-spot, improvised version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia.” Then, stopping short, he said, “If we’re gonna do a cover, let me do one that I know” and then brought out an absolutely striking version of “At Last.” People started dancing together in front of the stage, the audience was screaming and the whole room felt like the most memorable moment at a wedding reception; Davis has that sheer power locked up in his voice.
For the next few songs, we moved up to the balcony to get a different view of the show and the audience. After several more new songs, Davis and the band exited the stage, as if to point to the obvious irony of Nashville’s encores, Davis shoots his arm out from backstage and jokingly pumps it up, motioning for the audience to cheer louder so he’ll come out.
The laughing audience complies, and Davis takes the stage alone to face his keyboard and play a couple of the tunes that won the hearts of Nashvillians years ago when Davis was just a hopeful college musician. Long before The Black Keys made their home in this city, Davis has been singing about how he plays on the black keys. After the song “Black Keys,” he did a varied version of “Brown Eyes,” substituting in green eyes at the request of the audience. Rather than singing his traditional lyric “She’s a tall brunette,” he sang, “She’s a long-haired blonde,” and way up in the balcony beside me, Laura Bell Bundy knew this tribute was for her.
After appeasing the audience with two of the songs that introduced him to Nashville, Davis thanked the crowd and left the heat of the stage to hang out with the audience. Check out Davis’ show this week at 12th and Porter with Seth Philpott and the Sons of Summer.