Photos by Ty Hyten
The Scene: It was a gorgeous summer night at Red Rocks this past Friday and fifty-year-old white women waited in long lines to buy Beringer white wine. And buy it they did. As the night progressed the blouse wearing masses yapped, sipped and sang. The sky changed colors over the sold-out rocks and the crowd found their seats early for another magical collaboration with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
Opener: ZZ Ward. The evening, which Los Angeles’ ZZ Ward said “might be the best day of [her] life,” began with a set of her well executed Bubblegum-Blues-Rock. Ward and her band appeared without the backing of the symphony and worked through a set of her radio friendly hits like “365 Days,” “Put the Gun Down” and “Last Love Song.” Some of the crowd was really engaged but an equal amount were focused on their wine and catching up.
Amos Lee & The Colorado Symphony: Every time I see the Colorado Symphony Orchestra collaborate with a popular musician I’m always amazed how seamlessly the show flows and how the orchestra strengthens the songs, adding drama, beauty and color. Friday night was no exception. Amos Lee and his talented band of multi-instrumentalists played an 18 song set spanning several records with the symphony providing a masterful backdrop on the majority.
Strings crescendoed and swelled on “Windows Are Rolled Down,” Lee’s opening song. It was worlds more powerful than Amo’s six piece band could do alone and I felt lucky to hear what could have been the best version of that song that will ever be played live. I guess I could argue that about any of the songs from the night, but that one shone especially brightly. The symphony added to the band, rather than drowning-out or cluttering-up the songs. Lee’s warm voice sat appropriately loud in the mix and even in the presence of such greatness, stood out as the strongest piece of the show. His band cycled through instruments including accordion, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, bass, keys, acoustic & electric guitars and dobro. The most noteworthy flourishes and solos (other than those from the Symphony) came from the dobro and the steel, both played by Andy Keenan.
Friday was Lee’s third appearance at Red Rocks, once having opened for Norah Jones and another opener for My Morning Jacket, but his first as a headliner. His discography proved rich enough to fill the time while keeping fans energized and focused. Standout songs included a serene “Colors,” the rockin’ “Stranger,” and an ultra-sexy Marvin Gaye-esque “Won’t Let Me Go.” Sam Cooke’s goosebump inducing “A Change is Gonna Come” was jaw dropping and the only cover of the night. Another noteworthy song was an untitled, unreleased song Amos said he only plays in Colorado which got plenty for fanfare each and every time he sang “Colorado is where I’ll stay…”
The night ended subtly with two fan favorites. “Black River” & “Arms of a Woman;” both perfect platforms for his voice to keep the 9,000 some-odd fans hanging on rather than heading out.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: B-