Trevor Hall unifies Birmingham audience

Trevor Hall (with Cas Haley)
Birmingham, AL
March 15, 2012



When contemplating what elements make up the complete package musical artist, immediate job interview like inquiries spring to mind regarding lyrical, instrumental and vocal abilities, not to mention things like stage presence and charismatic charm. Typically, within at least one of these categories an artist falls short, not necessarily receiving a failing grade but (pardon the poker reference) definitely not showing four aces following the river after bluffing his way through the flop and turn.


Then along comes a gem like Trevor Hall. At the ripe old age of 25, Trevor is, for all intents and purposes, virtually blemish free; the only shortcoming being the fact that he is not an electric guitar shredder. This is easily forgivable though. His music doesn’t lend itself to that style of play even if it was in his in his arsenal.


In all other areas, one would be hard pressed to find better. Lyrically, his poetic depth has the profundity and wisdom of a man or woman who has spent years in exile, peeling back layers of self in search of a core but not forgetting how to have fun. Vocally, with every utterance of his softly spoken baritone growl, there is never a notion of machination, only  thoughts of natural endowment.  Finally, when it comes to stage presence, he resembles a barefooted smiling antelope with dreads, delicately bouncing to the rhythm when appropriate and seeping into a semi-trancelike state when going into numbers that naturally take the listeners there or when other tunes yield to improvisational jazz inspired reggae-psychedelia — typically led by guitarist Aaron Dugan (formerly of Matisyahu).


This was exactly what was showcased in Birmingham on a recent Thursday night when Hall and his most recently incarnated band — Brian Lang on bass, Jordan Perlson on drums, and Dugan —  rolled into Birmingham on a recent Thursday night.


A set from the most unlikely reggae songbird fathomable and inaugural America’s Got Talent runner-up, Cas Haley, opened up the proceedings. With a voice that is as surprising as a poor republican, Haley managed to deliver hearty lyrics that could have a propensity to fall frothily from anyone else. But there is something that was and is undeniably authentic about Cas, whether crooning his lyrics (his most recent LP, Connection, came out in 2010) or those  of others. It is due to this that he is able to defy so many stereotypes. He is able to effectively pull off what few, if any, could: to be a large Caucasian male and able to sing Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Turn Your Lights Down Low” without a hitch and be embraced by the very cautious reggae scene with rare exception. All in all, he proved once again that that he did the absolute right thing when he chose to not sign his life away to Piers Morgan and company.


By the time Haley’s set reached the midway point and through its end (that also included songs with the backing of Hall’s band), the WorkPlay crowd had become fully enamored by him, to the point that it may not be long before he makes the trip to the Magic City by himself.


Trevor Hall took the stage to massive applause. The previously seated crowd rushed towards the stage, anxious to get the show on the road, easily showing the substantial ticket sales increase since his previous trip to the city (aside from an opening slot with Matisyahu in 2011).


Touring behind  Everything Everytime Everywhere, his fifth studio release that  — just as the case has been since he released his first album in the 11th grade —  finds him leading with his strongest suit: his scholarly aptitude as a songwriter.


Elementally diverse, the listening journey on E3 is broad; at times heavy and spiritual while at others, playful and toe tapping. Through a mish-mashing of genres (while remaining fundamentally rooted in reggae styling), the sonic diversity makes for a record that can be played time and again without becoming stale and it was the material from this record — in spite of an extensive long list of fan “sing along” favorites — that drove the Birmingham crowd into frenzy, proving its instant affability.


Opting to open the evening with the transcendental and spiritually pricking deep cut, “To Zion”, the audience was given the opportunity to come under an accord, tuning into whatever message they felt inclined toward. In turn the peaceful mob-like dash that had taken place only moments earlier was abruptly quieted at the bequest of their emcee. As Trevor will say, he wants the music to be less about him and more about each individual’s experience.


From there, permission would soon be given to let go completely when E3‘s first single, “Brand New Day” was put into play. With the majority of the room uniting in chorus in unison with a very pleased Trevor Hall, Aaron Dugan took the song into a direction that was slightly deviant from the studio version by providing a twist that anyone familiar with the early and definitive  Matisyahu sound — that Dugan is very responsible for helping to craft — would recognize with eyes closed and upon first note.


During “Unity,” Dugan was once again on fire, but so was the band as a whole. With Trevor leading the pack, signaling counts and changes, the outfit not only stated their case as the quartet who will adequately replace the beloved trio (Trevor, Chris Steele and Mario Pagliarulo) of yesteryear, they signed, sealed and delivered it by showing a united front with an ear for each other’s nuances.


This sentiment remained. For virtually all of the remaining portion of the set (that also saw Cas Haley return to the stage for a moment), improvisation reigned on high, much to the delight of the crowd and the dancing bare feet of the front man.


Of course it really would not be a Trevor Hall show without “Lime Tree” and though Hall must occasionally wish that he could go a night (or even a tour) without playing the track, he also has the wisdom to know that to act on such a notion would make about as much sense as it would to divorce the love of your life over a slight quarrel. He wrote a beautiful song — one of many — and audiences adore it. The fact is that no matter how many times one witnesses an offering of the number, the sheer energy of the room is enough to send electrodes up the spine and to the surface in the form of chill bumps.


As the evening wrapped and fans lingered, patiently awaiting the commonplace occurrence of Hall coming out to greet his fans, the smiles on blushed faces told the story. Trevor Hall had come  into a city that is far from charted territory for the California by way of South Carolina native.


He had come and made waves that have yet to even begin to crest. He had stepped up to Birmingham plate and hit for the cycle.  Without hoopla or mass quantities of emails or Facebook invites, Trevor seemingly  did all of the above by the only way he knows:  giving of himself in hopes that a connection is made and a connection will be conduit for the next time through.


That mission was accomplished and one can bank on the fact that the next trip to WorkPlay will have a sign on the door that simply says “sold-out.” Let’s just hope that as he plans his tour, that Birmingham isn’t plotted another year and a half down the road again.


Trevor Hall Setlist

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Cas Haley Setlist

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Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by David Shehi