Amos Lee at the Orpheum
On the heels of the release of his fifth studio album, Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, singer-songwriter Amos Lee has hit the road for a headlining tour of the eastern United States. At Boston’s Orpheum Theatre, the crowd of 2,500 or so gave Lee and his talented five-member band the kind of reverential reception usually reserved for far more established artists.
Lee has a voice that can call to mind Bob Dylan on some songs, Bruce Springsteen on others – and a musical sensibility that’s been handed down from The Band. He displayed the full range of his eclectic songbook at the Orpheum, sprinkling a half dozen new tracks into a 21-song set that included selections from all his previous albums as well as several well-chosen covers.
Lee’s longtime touring band was in on the recording of Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, and the collaboration pays off in concert. The show opened with the first two tracks on the new album, “Johnson Boulevard” and “Stranger,” the former a wistful, mid-tempo lament for “things that have come and gone” and the latter an amped-up, countrified blues number that rumbled like a freight train through the 160-year-old theater.
Another new mournful ballad, “Chill in the Air,” was greeted like an old fan favorite, with audience members all around me singing along with the sad chorus, “I don’t want to see you again, I don’t want to feel your breath…and I don’t want the keys to our door, I don’t live there anymore, and I’ll do my best just to forget the dreams we dreamt.”
While the new album reflects Lee’s move toward a more country-tinged sound, much of the second half of his live show was given over to his neo-soul roots, starting with a cover of The Delfonics’ “Baby I Want You/La La (Means I Love You)” and continuing with new arrangements of “Southern Girl,” “Sweet Pea” and a superb “Flowers.”
Lee dedicated the title track of his new album to the late Levon Helm, saying he wrote the song after playing at one of Helm’s Midnight Rambles shortly before the drummer’s death in 2012.
He closed the show with a rousing version of “Windows Are Rolled Down,” before coming back for an encore of “Night Train” and “End of the Road,” a Boyz II Men cover.
Lee’s fall tour continues through the end of November. He’ll then be back on the road in February 2014, hitting cities throughout the West and Midwest.