Adam Ezra Group: Barefoot Pleasure
At set break the audience was invited to pay whatever we liked for the CDs on the merchandise table. My friend dropped a twenty in the box and hoped that Adam would be able to afford a pair of shoes.
I, however, preferred the bandleader barefoot. It all fit; the toes, the music, and the crowd moved with abandon. From the back of the room, all the heads seemed to bob in unison. The percussionist, aptly nicknamed “Turtle”, was only one of many who grooved to the band’s beat. The 20 something brunette who claimed first row center and the gray haired gent who stood beside her were moving, too. It was a veritable herd of turtles at The Half Door, all with necks craned at the stage and heads set in motion.
It was a chilly December night, and we had hurried from an unlit side street to the club’s front door. It was dark inside as well, but the ambient energy was warm and electric. On a late Wednesday evening in sleepy Insurance City, the house was packed. Loud chatter, laughter, and the sound of clinking glasses accompanied the band’s warm-up. When the show began, patrons crowded the small stage front. We soon realized that the crowd was not just rocking; they were singing, and they knew all the words. The Adam Ezra Group had groupies.
When the show began and the first notes settled in my ears, I immediately recognized the song. It was completely unexpected. Somehow I hadn’t expected this young band to open with a tale of middle aged regret, but it worked. They offered a gritty and intuitive take on “Angel from Montgomery” that was both surprising and pleasing.*
Most of the songs performed were originals and written by Adam Ezra. Adam has said that he writes constantly; he writes and the band arranges. Adam has a lot to say, and fortunately he says it well. The lyrics are intelligent and the stories are told with good-natured humor. While there may be an occasional edge to the tone, there is never overt negativity. On this particular night, the band played several selections from their 2010 album “View from the Root”. Two of these stood apart from the rest. The socially relevant “Scandal” is written in a semi threatening tone and comes the closest of any of Adam’s songs to voicing anger and cynicism.*
“She’s Just a Girl” is an upbeat, self-effacing, and humorous story of an old flame hooking up with a current buddy.*
Adam performs with an easy, natural warmth and with a broad smile that transforms his long face. While the Hartford set did not require or demonstrate his full vocal range, I found the grit and honesty of his delivery very appealing. The band was relaxed and interactive; they played with an organic down-home unity and excellent dynamics. Their unique brand of acoustic rock was delivered with a folk/blues vibe, accented by jazz chord progressions. Adam was at ease on guitar, and also played harmonica and bongos. The band added keyboard, base, drums and percussion to the mix.
The band as a whole had a magnetic personality. They were very much a part of the scene, and not just the center of it. The banter flowed freely between the artists and the crowd, and the crowd was completed invested in the Adam Ezra Group experience. So was I.
It comes as no surprise to me that this Boston based band has begun to develop a national reputation. It’s too late to be early, but early enough to be on time, and in time to watch the Adam Ezra Group on the rise.
*As no clean audio capture was available from the 12/8 Hartford show, audio recordings are presented from the 12/17/10 live show taped by SmokinJoe and 12/18/10 show taped by corey the groundhog. More here: http://www.archive.org/details/aeg2010-12-17.adktl-sbd-mix.flac16f and here http://www.archive.org/details/aeg2010-12-18.akg483-sbd.flac16
To purchase “View from the Root” and for more song samples: http://amzn.to/gjxxlu
For more on the Adam Ezra Group: http://www.adamezra.com/