Friday, December 12, 2014

Phillip Phillips, Saints of Valory concert review: Anaheim

photo by Joshua Suddock
My review originally appeared at

For Phillip Phillips, the live show is all about the jam.

On Wednesday night at City National Grove of Anaheim, the 2012 “American Idol” champ got into an extended groove with his five-piece band whenever possible.

Among the more successful winners from the Fox TV singing competition in recent years, Phillips saw his debut album “The World from the Side of the Moon” reach platinum status and spawn a pair of multi-million-selling Adult Rock radio hits (the ubiquitous “Home,” “Gone Gone Gone”).

Solid follow-up release “Behind the Light” hasn’t matched those lofty heights. But the 24-year-old Georgia native – who hails from the same small town as Luke Bryan – says it is a better creative representation of him, since he co-wrote and co-produced all the tunes.
He drew a wide cross section of fans to O.C, yet young women were clearly in the majority. They constantly squealed with delight; a few even shouted suggestive remarks.

Taking the stage to little fanfare, Phillips got right down to business. The intense ebb and flow dynamics of “Man on the Moon” featured some intricate, folk-styled acoustic guitar picking from Phillips, while the infectious “Lead On” was an early standout amid the 12-song set.

Joel Behrman’s tasteful trumpet and trombone shadings often added a richer sheen to songs such as the glorious current single “Unpack Your Heart” and soaring top 10 adult contemporary hit “Raging Fire.” Fans sang along loudly to the latter and a high flying “Gone Gone Gone.” Both were electrifying.

photo by Joshua Suddock
So was a seething “Trigger,” where Phillips’ vocals effortlessly veered from subtle to furious as the music swelled with intensity. 

He looked back at the band and traded smiles with them throughout the 90-minute concert, obviously pleased at their added instrumental flourishes.

Before the simple, optimistic “Tell Me a Story,” the singer said, “Leesburg (Georgia) is a long way from here,” to which one fan shouted, “Welcome back to California.” Later, the haunting and feisty “Thicket” was another highlight. Like much of Phillips’ material, it bore a distinct Dave Matthews influence.

Phillips waited until near the end of the evening to pick up electric guitar for the manic “Fly,” prefaced with a bit of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Back Home” (too bad he didn’t do the full song; other stops on the tour got Billy Joel and Lynyrd Skynyrd covers). Before the uplifting, sing along finale of “Home,” the band did a long, meandering intro better suited to an afternoon slot at Bonnaroo Festival.

Saints of Valory impressed mightily with a vigorous 35-minute set culled from its various EPs and upcoming full-length debut on Atlantic Records. The Austin-based alternative rock band’s propulsive music possessed a vibrant sense of dynamics, recalling U2, Imagine Dragons (the percussive-heavy “Long Time Coming”) and 30 Seconds to Mars (“Kids”). A commanding take on Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” was especially well-received.

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