Photos by Ty Hyten
The Scene: The Wood Brothers brought warmth and comfort to their Denver audience on what was a glacial evening last Saturday at the Gothic. The venue was aglow with sunny faces reddened from the night’s below-freezing temperatures. The general vibe was that of appreciation for the rescue from the cold, the excess insulation of the crowded room and the heat that The Wood Brothers would soon bring to the stage.
The Opener: Acoustic mastermind Ben Sollee was on stage first, performing a duet with his cello, who truly deserves it’s own name, as the instrument proved itself a living, breathing entity apart from it’s significant mammalian other. Together, man and cello maintained control over a packed house. With closed eyes, you could have been the only person in the room, receiving a private show from the magnetic duo. During his set, Sollee touched on genres previously thought unimaginable for a man and his one acoustic cello. What the soloist lacked in physical stage presence he more than made up for with this charm and charisma as he spoke to the crowd between songs.
The Wood Brothers: The band known as The Wood Brothers includes Chris Wood with his upright bass, and Oliver Wood and his raw acoustic guitar. With a swift entrance the brothers took the stage, accompanied by drummer and full-time band member Jano Rix. The brothers dressed in brown slacks with brown sport coats, looking effortlessly consistent and perfectly easy on the eyes. As gracefully as they took the stage, the three men initiated their gentle launch into an incredible set of Saturday evening acoustic music.
Oliver’s sparkling vocals characterized his awesome lyricism, melodic truths expressed through songs that ranged from Bluegrass to Funk, all with an irreplaceable and dazzling ingenuity. Whether in the throws of a bass-backed groove or in the middle of introducing the next song to the audience, the passion beaming from the stage was tangible. Taking the time to tell the simplest story made each song significant and memorable. Oliver’s introduction to the song “Postcards From Hell” gave the audience valuable insight into a simple yet beautiful piece of music that had more meaning that we could have initially thought. As the trio played along, we became in touch with these regular guys on stage as if they were friends, or kin.
Throughout the evening we received a healthy serving of the band’s most recent studio album, The Muse. Two songs were particularly memorable that night. “Sing About It,” with its Latin influences and insightful lyrics had the house swaying and singing along. We also heard “Who the Devil,” a lively and spirited song whose lyrics are refreshingly honest and authentic. A third track off The Muse was “Honey Jar,” a song full of Southern twang and soft Country Rock. Overall, the performances we got from this latest studio album proved the boys are doing something right. Versatile yet consistent, The Muse is an absolute masterpiece and a great move for the now three-piece Wood brothers.
A crowd favorite was “Pay Attention” from the 2011 album Smoke Ring Halo. The number is a love song, a crying out and cooing for affection and attention. Looking down on the crowd from the second-story balcony, you had to smile in gratitude as you watched the synchronized swaying that was going on below. To put it simply, the trio made us all immensely happy last Saturday night.
As midnight grew closer, the boys wrapped the night up with another fan favorite, “Get Out My Life Woman.” This groovy cover of Allen Toussaint’s classic was terrific with the cheeky lyrics set to Chris’ energetic beats, and fully supported by Rix’s fresh technique on the drums.
There were countless things to be appreciated Saturday night, from the warm place to spend the evening, to the generally great attitude of the crowd, to the rejuvenating and inspiring performances from Ben Sollee, Jano Rix, and Chris and Oliver Wood. The show was enlightening, unforgettable and a total breath of fresh air. Pleasantly infectious, The Wood Brothers are a special kind of live act: you might not have heard of them before, but within minutes of joining their audience you’ll feel like you’ve been a fan for many years.
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: B-