Masquerade & WorkPlay Theater
Atlanta, GA & Birmingham, AL
September 29 & 30, 2010
Anytime that one has the chance to catch two nights of soul inspiration, he should. Especially when all he has to do is make an hour long journey to make it possible. This was exactly the case when Trevor Hall recently brought his tour to the Deep South cities of Atlanta and Birmingham. And although these cities are often considered to be somewhat one in the same, the two nights would offer a variety, not only in venue, but also in sound and scene.
When considering Hall as a musician, one must first account for his songwriting abilities. A deeply spiritual man, Hall’s lyrics bathe his audience in grace and warmth. With such words as "I don’t want to count the leaves of the mango tree, I just want to taste its sweetness," the audience is left with little choice but to ponder and introspect on some of the greater things in life and measure their importance. In conjunction with the lyrics themselves, Hall’s coarsely blues infused vocal ability manages to deliver the hearty utterances in a manner that is inviting and explicable.
Ably backed by percussionist Chris Steele, Brian Lang on bass who is aptly filling the shoes of "Super" Mario Pagliarulo, and Aaron Dugan on guitar. Dugan is perhaps most noted as one of the foremen in the development of the Matisyahu sound that many have come to know and love.
Matthew Santos would serve as opening act for both stops. Santos, a singer-songwriter who rose to elite status with his introduction through his collaborative work with Lupe Fiasco, was brought to the world stage via MTV and other news and media outlets. Matt is the kind of artist who comes off as a guy who could literally see a blade of grass and write a tune about it. Santos’ unique brand of both humor and sincerity through his folksy and whimsical abilities provided a nice appetizer to Hall’s set.
In Atlanta, we found ourselves in hell…literally. The Masquerade in Atlanta holds somewhat of a folklore status with its true claim to fame being that it is separated into three different levels: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. Prior to the show, Hall chidingly commented that his "teacher" teaches him that "one must walk through Hell to experience paradise." What is particularly nice about the "hell" setting is that it is theater in the round- meaning that the stage sits in the center of the crowd and provided a distinctive echelon of intimacy.
The crowd was rabid for Trevor. The attraction of young females to Hall is something that simply cannot be avoided although it is doubtful that one would try and avoid something like that. Their love of Trevor would be proclaimed throughout the evening whether through a fervent and superficial "I love you Trevor," or something a tad more profound represented through their succinct lyrical harmonization through virtually every tune.
Opening with "Unity," the stage was thematically set for what would be a more intense than usual set. This was exactly what the crowd needed and Trevor and crew played right into their hand. They met their throng with fervor to match the eminence from those before them with songs that proclaimed positivity- coming across with the spirit of Michael Franti and the vocal ability of a great crooner.
By the time that the most universally known Trevor tune, "Lime Tree" was played, Hall’s father had joined him on stage for a ripping version of "Om Shakti Om" and proved that musical genres know no boundaries, particularly religious ones, as the song title and lyrical content are directly drawn from Hall’s Hindu beliefs. The crowd although perhaps unknowingly were chanting a prayer for peace for the universal human. The sense of togetherness and lack of division in the room was the kind of thing that most can only hope to be the vessel for. Hall was just that and it was beautiful.
After taking the time to meet everyone in the audience, Hall and the gang loaded up for the journey of round two which would take place at WorkPlay Theater in Birmingham, AL.
The setting at WorkPlay could not have been more dissimilar from that of Hell. Folding chairs and small candlelit tables were set in front of the stage. It resembled something from the VH1 Storytellers series and it was clear that a different brand of Trevor would be needed to embrace this audience who were comfortably seated by the time that the musicians seized control of the stage.
When asked in the moments preceding the show if he was a bit concerned about the ability to energize the crowd, Hall simply smiled and said, "I am going to be of service." This is exactly what sets Trevor apart from the flock. He is confident that by simply showing up and spiritually polling the vibe, that a Higher Presence will do the rest. This brand of authentic humility manages to captivate both aficionados and those that are completely unfamiliar alike.
For the most part, the gig on its whole was standard fare as the band reeled through its catalogue of tunes including "Origami Crane," Sa Re Ga," and "31 Flavors," but the true embrace came when Trevor rambled into one of his improvised poetry sessions which only slightly resembled "Lion’s Mane" from 2008’s This is Blue and eventually gave way to Chris Steele’s providing of box drum and bongo play which sent the still sitting audience into a collectively mesmerized trance as evidenced by the simultaneous raucous cheer at the immediate closing of the bit that seemingly could not be accurately predicted to the extent that it was without all being in one accord.
Matthew Santos would rejoin the stage for a closing rendition of "Lime Tree" that fully allowed Dugan to show off his impressive chops and integrate his unique reggae permeated jazz play for a crowd that had been drawn to their feet towards only a few songs earlier- not with urging, but rather with strength of mind.
On its whole the run was Trevor doing what Trevor does. He has been given a gift and uses that gift to the delight of others. While it is true that he is the engine of the band’s train, it is equally as correct that there is no caboose. This fine young talent has only the sky as his limit and once reached, there is no evidence to suggest that he will not embrace it as he has everything else in his path thus far.