“Hymn” is the perfect example of how a Diane Coffee song goes, full of emotion, twists and turns, and, most of all, passion.
Off Broadway, St. Louis
On my first pass through Diane Coffee’s latest album, Everybody’s a Good Dog, I was stunned. Every aspect of the album was unique: the melodies, the vocals, the energy. It was all so engaging and not like anything on the radio today. Odd time signatures, bursts of energy, and hippy-trippy melodies in every song made me sit in my car and let the groovy vibes wash over me.
Songs such as “I Dig You,” “Duet,” and “Not That Easy” transported me to the ’60s and filled my musical soul with happiness. It was David Bowie, The Monkees, and Elton John all rolled into one: pure psychedelic rock heaven. As impressed as I was by the album, I was not at all prepared for what would be waiting for me on the stage of the Off Broadway music space.
Summer Magic, hailing right here from St. Louis, opened the show. Their sound of jangly, psychedelic pop was the perfect appetizer to Coffee’s main course. Their arsenal of upbeat songs and infectious energy was impressive. According the band, this was their second show ever. I needed to take pause of that fact when they announced it on stage. If Summer Magic was this good only two shows in, St. Louis is going to be very fortunate. The talent is there: The songs are memorable, their vibe is engaging, and this group can wail. It was sweet to watch lead singer Kevin Bachmann tend to each of his band mates during their set up. Overall, the band left me wanting for more, which is a good sign of an opening act.
As this was only their second gig, I do have a suggestion for the band: get a stylist. With music this good, you don’t want to be on stage looking like a dry old piece of toast. If there is an aspiring fashion designer who is looking for a project, get in contact with Summer Magic. I am thinking The Brady Bunch meets The Monkees: matching outfits with colorful epaulettes. Trust me, gang: You need an image.
Diane Coffee is a perfect example of having a “look.” As the band members took the stage, all decked out in sharp-looking suits, it made me take notice. Coffee (whose real name is Shaun Fleming, but I shall refer to him as Diane) took the stage like a (expletive) rockstar, full of swagger and attitude. As he launched into “Hymn” from 2013’s My Friend Fish, Coffee worked the crowd into a frenzy. “Hymn” is the perfect example of how a Diane Coffee song goes, full of emotion, twists and turns, and, most of all, passion.
When Coffee broke into the sweet and sexy “All the Young Girls,” the crowd swayed to the beat. To say the artist has stage appeal is an understatement: He absolutely commands the stage. You can see how deeply he feels every emotion, every nuance of his songs. Even on his performance of “Everyday,” his facial expressions are priceless. This man is a true artist of the highest caliber, as well as a world-class performer. I adore when a singer not only sings their songs, but they perform a show. I felt like this is what it would be like if Hedwig from Hedwig and the Angry Inch were real. Coffee was campy, antagonizing, and larger than life.
On the next song, “Wwwoman,” I felt like I dropped acid—me (!), who has never taken an illegal drug in my life. I felt my mind expanding as I was lulled into a hypnotic trance…and even danced in public! Coffee’s vocal delivery was almost a religious experience. I gazed upon him in a trance and let all my worries, anxieties, and frustrations melt away as I swayed to the music.
During “Down with the Current,” not only did Coffee serve ’70s soul realness, he disappeared to let his very talented keyboardist take center stage. Needless to say, the boy had mad keyboard skills. Once Coffee returned, he had changed into a glittery disco top, cementing his status as a true performer. I love a costume change.
Hitting the crowd with some monster performances of “Mayflower” and “I Dig You,” Coffee continued to work the crowd into a lather. You can hear these tracks on his new album, but you just have to see him in concert to appreciate his unique energy. He raced around the stage, infusing each track with crazy amounts of energy and an overabundance of passion.
The track that really hit me in the music gut was his emotional performance of “Not That Easy.” Once again, the album track is delightful enough, but to see him pour every ounce of his passion into his performance was overwhelming. As he sang the title, his pronunciation of each word was like a nail in the heart. This man knows how to write a song that cuts right to the heart and he performed the hell out of it: a highlight of the show.
As the show wrapped up, I had to admit that I felt like I was in the presence of musical greatness. What I just witnessed was a true performer pour out his soul on the stage. His band was equally impressive, but Coffee was the star of the night. If you weren’t there, St. Louis, you missed a gem of a show.
As I left the venue, I confirmed with the staff that tickets were only $10. I shook my head in disbelief that this much talent and this much musical goodness cost less than my after-show White Castles. Only in St. Louis. | Jim Ryan