Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: Crowds swarmed the entrance of the Boettcher Concert Hall last Friday evening to view the collaborative efforts of The Colorado Symphony with none other than singer/songwriter, Gregory Alan Isakov. The mix of Indie folksters and symphony aficionados did not prevent the will-call line from becoming a war zone. People were literally stealing tickets for this sold-out show. But upon entering the concert hall itself, the madness ended for a night of humbled elegance.
Gregory Alan Isakov: The show promptly began at 7:30 p.m. as the man of the night walked to his lonely microphone; sounds of a twinkling guitar delicately resounded through the ears of a submissive audience. Isakov opened with a solo acoustic rendition of “She Always Takes It Back”; the song gracefully ended and his band took the stage. As the lights changed to a subtle blue hue, Folk love-ballads drifted through the round theater for a calm “All Shades of Blue” performance. With Isakov now on banjo, the crowd welcomed the Bluegrass ambiance wholeheartedly, an energetic uproar closing the song. Words like “erupt” and “explode” are frequently used to describe applause at concerts; however, I truly felt as if the clapping, cheering, and overall excitement at this show trumped all others I’ve attended this year.
The first three songs of the night were all from his new album titled The Weatherman, with the prevalent song, “Amsterdam,” welcoming The Colorado Symphony to the stage. Isakov, now back on guitar, held strong his soft Folk influences while the big orchestral sound of the symphony added a dramatic flair that could not be matched. Mixed emotions of love, happiness, and the pain that can be caused by the two echoed through Isakov’s voice and the symphonic engagement. The popular “Big Black Car” and “This Empty Northern Hemishpere” followed, engaging the crowd in the ode-to-love-and-landscapes album, also titled This Empty Northern Hemisphere. Gregory Alan Isakov interjected before the next song saying in a shy, muffled tone, “I’ve been very nervous about this show for a long time,” which lead into a beautiful performance of “The Stable Song.” This would be the only song played from his first album. “Saint Valentine” continued with a complemented falsetto from his second guitarist; a waterfall of violin and viola poured into a percussive movement continuing the sense of cohesiveness between Isakov, his band, and the symphony. Interjecting once more before set break, he whispered, “One more, then a quick break ‘cause that’s how it’s done in the fancy world…” The exclusive live performance of the heart-wrenching song “Liars” closed the first set in a way that was reminiscent of when Wicked closed its first set with “Defying Gravity.” Goosebumps moved throughout the theater like “the wave” at a sporting event. Isakov used a second mic for distortion, resembling something like a walkie talkie. Combined with the Big Band sound, the song was raw and incredibly moving.
Gregory Alan Isakov and his band ushered in the second set with an acapella tune, which was only amplified by the concert hall. Songs like “Evelyn” and “Second Chances” reignited any emotion that may have been lost during setbreak, with one of my favorites, “Living Proof” to follow, jaws were dropping left and right. The sound was getting bigger and bigger, building more and more of a dramatic flavor, and then completely dropped leaving only Isakov’s voice to linger. The show concluded with two songs from This Empty Northern Hemisphere: “That Moon Song,” which was our final moment with the entirety of The Colorado Symphony and finally “If I Go, I’m Goin” as the night’s encore. Only Isakov and his band remained with four French horn players, ending the night with just as much stunning intimacy as it began.
Any show with The Colorado Symphony in tow is a shoe-in for success, but Gregory Alan Isakov could have played in an alleyway and I would still be just as moved.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: B+