Known Johnson

April 23, 2005

Glen Phillips – 4/21/05 Marquee Theater, Tempe, AZ

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 12:32 pm

Somehow both Alissa and I entirely missed any announcements that Toad The Wet Sprocket’s ex-lead singer, Glen Phillips, was coming to the area, finding out about it only hours before the show on Thursday. We decided to throw caution to the wind, be wild, and just go. After August when the Unknown Johnson arrives we likely won’t be able to just do these spur of the moment things anymore. I’m glad we did go – Toad is a shared band between us, and as I’ve said a few times before, Glen’s new solo album, Winter Pays For Summer, is one of the year’s best albums (and yes, I will continue to hype and link to this album until you buy it.)

Opening act Blue Merle was entertaining with their unusual blend of bluegrass and pop with mellow vocals that mimic Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and they were given a generous length of time to woo new fans with. Between sets, I noticed a number of people returning to their seats clutching copies of their debut album, bought at the merchandise desk. This band is likely going to do pretty well, especially after their upcoming support-slot on the summer Dave Matthews Band tour. DMB fans will eat this stuff up.

Glen Phillips took the stage in an unassuming button-down shirt tucked into jeans, sporting a recently cropped-short haircut and glasses. Looking like he’d just gotten off work, one of his band members would comment later how studious Phillips appeared. Studious he may have looked, but his demeanor was as laid back and comfortable as anyone could expect of someone on stage.

Glen Phillips is a real showman, engaging the crowd with just the right amount of humor and chatter, pulling material not just from his two studio solo albums, but also a lot of material from his better-known days with Toad, and even inviting one audience member on-stage to play drums during one song. What really blew me away was how absolutely, perfectly identical Glen’s voice sounded live compared to what is usually the more “polished” studio versions found on his albums. He’s blessed with a clear, distinct and, most importantly, natural voice, which he put on display, flawlessly, throughout the entire performance, even tossing in a spot-on cover of Bjork’s “Hyperballad,” which he carried with impressive skill.

Phillips closed out his show with a set of acoustic songs that he performed solo, save for giving the spotlight to his backing guitarist and keyboardist Jonathan Kingham, who sang his own song “Grace,” showing what a generous and supportive band leader he has become. That kind of involvement with his band members is what helped make Thursday’s show such a tight, emotional performance, and which makes the much larger, less intimate acts seem so meaningless in comparison.

The setlist from Thursday’s show:

Fly From Heaven
Something’s Always Wrong
High on a Riverbed
Finally Faded
Train Wreck
Walk on the Ocean
Duck and Cover


All I Want
It Takes Time

Second encore solo:
Half Life
unknown song (written with Lori McKenna)
Comes A Time
Grace (Jonathan Kingham)
Hyperballad (Bjork)
Drive By
Don’t Need Anything


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