It’s Sunday, April 22nd and I’m driving up the Mass Pike listening to George Ezra’s new album, Staying at Tamara’s. I’d just finished playing my first living room show in West Boylston, and found myself with less time than initially planned to get to Ezra’s concert at the House of Blues in Boston. As I’m racing up the Pike, I’m wondering how attending my first concert as a journalist will go. Six songs and thirty minutes later I find free street parking two blocks from the venue. Good start, I’m thinking. Let’s go do this.
I turn the corner and see a never-ending line of concertgoers. There’s a buzz about them that inspires me to approach a few after I secured my press pass. “What brings you here tonight?” I asked Kristina from Maine. “I’ve been obsessed with his music for four years now. I love his voice; it’s so deep and calming.” She and multiple others described Ezra’s sound as unique. They expressed excitement about his new album and an appreciation for the mix of upbeat songs like “Paradise” and “Shotgun” and slower, deeper songs like “Only a Human” and “The Beautiful Dream.” They couldn’t believe they were moments away from seeing them performed live.
When I entered the venue Noah Kahan had a few songs left in his opening set. From the front row a group of Kahan’s friends, family and fans led the rest of the crowd in cheering for and applauding his band’s passionate performance, driven by his raw, powerful voice. After closing with his beautifully simple pop ballad “Hurt Somebody,” Kahan and his band met fans near the merchandise table. I had just finished a great conversation with Noah when the lights dimmed and the crowd went wild.
George Ezra’s six-piece band excitedly took the stage and broke into the intro of “Cassy O.’” Moments later Ezra appeared, showcasing his slightly awkward yet adorable and confident dance moves as he made his way to the microphone. When he picked up his guitar, threw it around his neck and joined the rest of the band, a new energy filled the room.
“Boston!” he addressed the crowd upon the song’s end. “Tonight we’re going to play some old songs… And tonight we’re going to play some brand new ones!” The sincere tone with which he spoke led me to believe that he might just be this personable with the audience throughout the concert, and indeed he was. Between songs, Ezra told stories that inspired his songwriting for his first and second albums. He spoke with his arms and his smile, and the audience listened intently, laughed, and appreciated his openness.
I particularly loved his story about “Budapest,” his 2014 breakout hit. He’d been travelling Europe by train with a particular plan: explore each city for two nights and then hop back on the train towards the next destination. Only once did he fall off this track, which led him to miss one city he’d planned to see: Budapest. To play further into the joke of writing a song about a city he’d never been to, Ezra explained, “Often people write love songs promising all the things they have to give, so I thought it’d be funny to write one promising all the things I definitely don’t have to give, like a house in Budapest!” This happened to be the last story of the night, as Ezra ended his three-song encore with “Budapest.”
After the show I began approaching people again because that same buzz I’d sensed about the audience earlier was still alive. This time I asked about favorite moments of the show, and appropriately I received answers that nearly covered the whole concert. If I were counting, “Paradise,” “Shotgun,” “Hold My Girl,” and “Blame It On Me” received the most praise. Whether upbeat or slower and more emotional, Ezra and his band’s performances were undeniably captivating. His smooth and deep voice cut through the supporting guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and horns clearly. In addition to enjoying the clarity of all the instruments in the mix, I loved the band’s spontaneous, genuine, and entertaining interactions amongst themselves. Their good vibe was infectious, and spread throughout the audience all night. I saw all smiles as concertgoers stepped out of the House of Blues and back onto the streets of Boston.