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On the verge of stardom

Amos Lee
Riverside Theater
Milwaukee, WI
March 25, 2011
Amos Lee Amos Lee

Story and photos by Jen Bronenkant

I went to see Amos Lee expecting to enjoy a somewhat mellow performance by the singer/songwriter and instead Lee turned out to be a true showman bringing an energy that had the audience on its feet for most of the night.

Many in Milwaukee may have been introduced to Lee when he performed as part of last fall's Farm Aid Concert at Miller Park. Friday's show was originally scheduled at Turner Hall Ballroom but after his Mission Bell album surprisingly debuted at number one on the charts, the venue was wisely changed to the larger Riverside Theater which fans enthusiastically filled for the general admission show.

Lee, 32, got into the music business after working as an school teacher in his native Philadelphia. He quickly caught the attention of well known musicians including Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Van Morrison and Paul Simon who he has toured with, but grabbing widespread public attention has been much slower. His bluesy and soulful folk music had been gradually garnering a following among music lovers but until his recent release, his albums have had moderate sales.

A case of strep throat may have caused Lee to adjust his performance a bit but didn't stop him from giving a crowd pleasing show. For this tour, Lee added a backup band consisting of five members made up of a pedal steel guitar, standup bass, drums, guitar and keyboard plus two singers which added an rich and energetic dimension in comparison with his solo Farm Aid appearance.

The evening opened showcasing Lee's songwriting talent with "El Camino" from Mission Bell and went on to include several songs from this introspective collection but also a spattering of songs from all three of his previous albums. This brought a variety of moods and tempos to the show - the defiance of "Truth," the breeziness of "Sweet Pea," the melancholy of "Arms Of A Woman" and the soulful emotion of "Windows Rolled Down."

The band took a break from the stage for a solo acoustic set including "Kid," "Listen," "Out Of The Cold" and a cover of Paul Simon's "Peace Like a River." During this set, Lee discussed how Milwaukee is similar to Philadelphia in economy and the plight of workers and his disappointed surprise in what is happening in Wisconsin to workers before singing his unrecorded "Johnson Boulevard." The band returned to to the stage bringing the fans back up on their feet for the rest of the show.

The encore was a bluesy cover of Neil Young's "Are You Ready For The Country" followed by "I Learned A lot." A return to the stage for a second encore treated the audience to a rousing "Won't Let Me Go" which Lee turned over mid-song to his backup singer and Milwaukee native Angel who playfully took over the stage to give a soulful performance to finish the night.

Opening act The Secret Sisters delivered a charming set of traditional country standards, spirituals and a couple of originals in a wonderful blue grass harmony. Their hauntingly beautiful voices combined with an easy stage presence created a warm and enjoyable start to the evening.

Milwaukee Set List:
El Camino
Supply And Demand
Bottom Of The Barrel
Keep It Loose Keep It Tight
Out Of The Cold
Johnson Boulevard
Peace Like A River (Paul Simon)
Cup Of Sorrow
Seen It All Before
Sweet Pea
Windows Rolled Down
Arms Of A Women

Are You Ready For The Country (Neil Young)
Learned Alot
Won't Let Me Go

Related articles:

Amos Lee (Farm Aid 2010) - Festival review - Milwaukee, WI - Oct. 2010

Amos Lee Amos Lee
Amos Lee Amos Lee

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