Photographs by Sarah Rix.
While the Danforth Music Hall wasn’t completely sold out as some tickets were still available to purchase at the door, it was more than packed. Arriving after the opening act the Ruen Brothers had already performed people were obviously quite anxious to see the British sensation George Ezra finally hit the stage. The crowd had an interesting mix of demographics. While I stood on the outer reaches of the crowd where it was mostly packed with middle aged folks enjoying a night out on the town, our photographer Sarah Rix who was front and center to shoot the show noticed how it was mostly underage girls (the show was an all ages event). When the lights went down a marching band song played over the PA system signaling the British were indeed coming to invade our ears and hearts.
“My name is George Ezra and this is my lovely band and we’re going to play some songs for you” was the introduction cue that generated lots of screaming and plenty of flashes going off on cameras. The blues/folk revivalist set opened with Cassy O’ a song that featured a harmonica solo like the type Bob Dylan would play, except Ezra’s guitarist played it on a synth. The solo came during breaks from singing so it was written with the intention of imitating Dylan or Neil Young pulling multiple duties as a front man. Ezra who just played at on such huge stages like Coachella and back in March on Saturday Night Live, still seemed genuinely taken aback by all the adulation he was receiving.
At one point Ezra made a quip about how he figured some people may have been dragged to his show and hopes that they still enjoy themselves. When playing a blues based back beat music it is near impossible to at minimum tap your feet and nod your head as that style of music is solely designed for the purpose of dancing. Ezra told a story about how he had purchased a train ticket to take him all over Europe as a way to find his own self. He brought his guitar with him and wrote songs like Barcelona, while enjoying his time in Spain.
The three-piece backing band left the stage for a few songs so Ezra could have the spotlight for himself and sing some acoustic tunes. He played a cover of Bob Dylan’s Girl from North Country after letting the crowd know he in fact did not write it. While singing in his deep baritone voice he still managed to pull off a pretty respectable Dylan impression. When the backing band came out again Ezra’ guitarist even brought a refill for his red solo cup that he was sipping from in between songs. When Ezra sings he seems to have all the confidence in the world with plenty of passion, but in contrast in between songs he seems shy and slightly awkward all of which adds to his charm of a sensitive artist.
Spectacular Rival was the highlight of the set mixing gospel music with a cowboy western like movie score. It was a song that elicited a lot of cheers when introduced. Ezra’s guitarist played a fantastic freak out solo filled with plenty of distortion and feedback while the drummer banged away on the cymbals as hard as possible creating a thunderstorm of noise.
Through a roundabout way talking how hung over he was to catch his next train on his trip across Europe to Hungary which led to the creation of his most popular song Budapest. All of the members of the audience took their cell phones out to record the song but still managed to sing along with all the “ohhhs” of the chorus. It was a bit of a disappointment seeing the song as Ezra lacked the energy and charisma to match the rest of his set. Maybe he was just tired of playing his most popular song so many times, or maybe he just wasn’t fully recovered from his recent illness that had sidelined him from weekend one of Coachella and numerous other headlining shows. Either way the hardcore fans that made it out could not have left any happier as the singer displayed the chops that have made him an international sensation.