Josh Kelly | 10.27.06

The overall tone of Kelly's set was that of the boy next door writing a laidback love letter.

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

Of all the nights to play a concert in St. Louis, the night of the Cardinals' World Series victory certainly would not be my pick. Josh Kelly took it in stride, possibly adorned in a casual red shirt in support of his St. Louis fans' favorite team. Everyone sat down, cell phones in hand to catch the latest scores, and were pleasantly surprised by Kelly's performance.

Usually there isn't much stock put into an opening act. Hell, most people don't even bother to show up until the main act walks on stage. But as Five for Fighting's opener, Kelly really could have very well been the main attraction. He excitedly walked onto the minimalist stage and sat down next to his bass player, Darwin Johnson, picked up his guitar, and swiveled his feet to the music he delivered to the crowd.

The overall tone of Kelly's set was that of the boy next door writing a laidback love letter. He spoke about love, told the audience that they "look delicious" and "smelled good," and played on. He knew it was the World Series. But without the mere mention of the obvious entertainment competition that filled the Pageant with its omnipresence, Kelly performed with grace and gratitude, continuing his relatively new musical journey.

In between the friendly banter and stories about his brother and past loves, Kelly presented a full range of radio hits and songs from his new album, Just Say the Word. Of course, everyone sang along with fan favorites "Amazing" and "Love Come Up," but his other songs didn't feel like fillers in any way, either. If anything, Kelly made sure to regularly address the crowd, delivering each song in some giftwrap in the form of an accompanying story. While this technique can bomb, here it felt more like his personality providing a natural transition from one song to the next.

Kelly's frustration with women and life come through his music gracefully, rather than sounding like a love-scorned jerk forcing us to listen to his trials and tribulations. Perhaps this is Kelly's best strength as a live musician.

Toward the end of the show, he felt the need to take the performance up a notch and jumped into Johnson's bass line and started playing Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," despite only knowing the chorus and few other lines. It came off as charming, rather than idiotic. The night finished with another cover, this time from Radiohead. Although not necessarily genre-specific to this particular singer/songwriter show, "Karma Police" played well into the mellow atmosphere of the audience, and Kelly and Johnson playing onstage. They are two guys just doing what they love, and if people come to listen, well, that's just icing on the cake. | Janelle Greenwood

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