Anderson East leaves Nashville audience rejoicing

Friday night in downtown Nashville would be my first opportunity to experience two things I have had on my musical bucket list for quite some time. The first being to attend a concert at Ryman Auditorium, the venue that pretty much birthed Country Music. It’s a place so iconic and legendary they nicknamed it the “Carnegie Hall of The South”. It’s arguably the most historically relevant and still active live music venue in the United States. The second check off my list would come in the form of southern soul rocker and fellow Nashville citizen Anderson East, a musician I have been waiting a very long time to see. 

The night of music would begin with Northern Ireland’s own Foy Vance.

Seated on a stool with an acoustic guitar, his handlebar mustache and scully cap concealed one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard. My initial thought while watching him take the stage was “hmm… an acoustic opener?”, thinking that he would play something akin to a coffee shop show and assuming he was possibly a time-filler as the crowd took their seats. I have never been more wrong about first impressions in my life. His powerful voice and deep, profound lyrics had the crowd crushed beneath waves of emotion. Without knowing a single word to any of his songs, I felt myself getting so emotional that I wondered where the nearest box of Kleenex was. He was absolutely phenomenal and although the majority of his set was low-key with no band and few instruments, it felt as if he had an orchestra of sound behind him. His set ended with the entire crowd singing the words to his hit “Guiding Light” and him spontaneously ripping his shirt off and flexing his muscles to the audience, as if he had just smashed his guitar at the end of a rock set. 

In August of this year, Anderson East released his third full-length LP Maybe We Never Die and, after countless listens, I hoped with every bit of musical optimism inside me that he would announce a show in Nashville. I have been an East fan since 2015, but sadly I haven’t been able to coordinate my life to catch one of his storied live performances. I felt such a rush of euphoria as he took the stage, then, as I heard his band kick off the first few notes of “Surrender”, my head almost exploded with joy. You could tell he was excited to be back doing what he loves, frequently remarking to the crowd how good it felt for him to be back after such a long period of uncertainty. He performed all of my favorites — “Just You & I”, “House Is A Building” and his classic “This Too Shall Last”. It was, by all standards, a perfect concert experience. A giant disco ball hung over the stage, fans danced and sang in the aisles; it was truly a magical experience. The evening concluded with a heartfelt rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All”, featuring Foy Vance and local soul legend Jason Eskridge on backing vocals. In my opinion, he is one of the best vocalists in music today. It’s honestly difficult to compare his unique talents to anyone although one thing is for sure, he knows how to put on an amazing show!

Photography by Derek Jones

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