Amos Lee with Black Prairie in Portland
Amos Lee with Black Prairie
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Though he's been around a number of years, it's still too early to tell if Amos Lee's legacy will win him inclusion in the company of America's great singer/songwriters, the place where we find names like Mellencamp, Petty and Springsteen. But for now, the 36-year old "youngster" from Philadelphia certainly delivers the kind of concert that makes it a viable question for one to ponder.
He's possessive of a relaxed confidence that's evident from the moment he steps onstage. He engages with the audience in a way that's self-effacing without appearing phony. He's wise enough to surround himself with a band that plays with skill greater than the sum of its parts and, from a technical standpoint, his light and sound presentation is done with consummate taste.
Lee's recent date in Portland at the city's venerable Schnitzer Concert Hall found him in particularly good stead. After an interesting yet uneven performance from Portlanders Black Prairie -- whose "home field advantage" won them more applause than they earned -- Lee kicked off his set with a rollicking reading "Windows Are Rolled Down" followed by the hillbilly thump of "Tricksters, Hucksters and Scamps."
After a pair from his 2005 debut, "Bottom Of The Barrel" and "Keep It Loose, Keep Tight," Lee beautifully wove a pair of cuts from his new album, Mountains Of Sorrow Rivers Of Song, into the set. First was the beautiful ballad "Chill In The Air" followed by a song inspired by a friend who, by Lee's account, left the wedding band from a broken marriage in his "Dresser Drawer," next to a package of condoms.
Midway through the set, Lee and the band broke from their stage positions to gather around a couple of mikes for an acoustic breakdown, including a pretty funny version of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." Lee took time to pay homage to his Philly roots with another cut from Mountains Of Song, the funky Hall & Oates-infused "Man Who Wants You." Not surprisingly, his biggest hit, "Flower" met with waving hands, bobbing heads and plenty of folks singing along.
The only place where the show stumbled was with the encore. With Black Prairie in tow, Lee and his band gathered around a pair of mikes and rambled through rocky acoustic versions of REO Speedwagen's "Take It On The Run" and John Prine's "Angel Of Montgomery." Though it was intended to portray a sense of spontaneity, it came off as an unprofessional -- and obviously unrehearsed -- mess. The audience deserved better and, candidly, Lee would have served himself better leaving the audience with something more fulfilling.
Encore notwithstanding, Lee's performance was beautifully executed and eminently entertaining. Those who ponder his legacy have plenty to think about.