Friday, October 26, 2012
Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
This was my third concert in three consecutive nights. I was a little worn down, to be perfectly honest. I might even have taken a quick nap at a rest stop in my car on the way to the show. But Eric Hutchinson was totally worth the long trip from Maine to the lovely Tupelo Music Hall. Half stand up comedian, half singer-songwriter—his live show was thoroughly entertaining. I saw that he was doing an “Almost Solo Tour” and knew it would be a good first time to catch him. I am so glad I did.
Jessie Payo opened the show. I liked her clear, raspy, slightly twangy voice. She had power. Her sound is pretty pop. She sang “Oh Betty,” for her 60-pound pitbull. I liked her song “Heaven Help Me” about how we ultimately have to be the one to help ourself. She joked that we could take her home for $10—her music, that is. Jessie also jokingly complimented Londonderry (which is very strip mall-esque) saying it was “SO nice! And nicer than the slums of Detroit!” I loved her cover of “Pumped Up Kicks.” She told us that she normally plays with a band but that her manager told her she needed to learn the songs to play solo for this tour with Eric or pass on it altogether. She encouraged us to step out of our comfort zone as she has because it’s worth it in the end and played “Take It On”—a song to that effect. I liked Jessie’s cover of “Angel From Montgomery.” She asked us to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and joked that we could also endorse her skills on Linkedin. Her last song, “Live Before I Die,” felt like an old spiritual.
The four seats in front of me in the front row never filled, so when Jessie’s set ended and the couple next to me decided to move up, I went with them. I always like a seat where I’m close enough to rest my feet on the stage. Eric Hutchinson took the stage with Elliott Blaufuss who played guitar and piano and also provided backing vocals. They opened with “Ok, It’s Alright,” which is definitely one of Eric’s best-known songs. His mic stand gave him some difficulties during the song and he joked afterwards that the show had “been going so well until then” and “welcome to my first show ever!” He has an infectious sense of humor. I laughed a lot all night long. If you’ve never heard Eric Hutchinson (even though I bet you have and just don’t know it), he has a Jason Mraz/Michael Buble vibe.
He warned us that he’d be calling on people at random to get their requests during the night, but that this wasn’t going to turn into an Elton John greatest hits show. Elton John was my first big concert in eighth grade, actually, but I was perfectly happy to hear Eric instead. He played “Talk is Cheap,” “You Don’t Have to Believe Me,” and “Oh.” We sang with him on “Oh” and I thought we sounded pretty good. You can count on audiences at Tupelo to sing along well when prompted. Eric joked we were only at 80% audience participation and he’s more of an “81% kind of guy.” He worked out loud on a hypothesis that the women were carrying the room and made us sing separately to test his theory. He encouraged the guys to drop down an octave and really go for it. I appreciated his encouragement. When a girl got up from the front row to grab another drink, he joked with her “it’s not for everyone—thanks for coming!” He really kept us engaged in the show all night long.
EH did “Give and Take” next, a song off his new album, Moving Up Living Down. Eric said it had been named “Best Album of the Year” and “has been given 6 out of 5 stars. By me.” Cute. We learned that he wrote the songs for the new album in his apartment in New York City, and that “stomping onto a towel is really unsatisfying.” He stomps when writing, and his landlady had emailed him five minutes into the beginning of the writing process for the new album when his neighbors complained he was being too loud. She called and said, “I told you—no band practices in the building!” He replied “Don’t you know who I am?” She didn’t. He joked that when she Googled him she wasn’t that impressed either. Based on the complaints, she thought a whole band had been practicing in the apartment. EH assured us it was just him, though. And he started stomping into the towel and giving out free music to his neighbors to keep the peace.
I liked “Not There Yet” and “Food Chain” that he played for Erica in the audience who’d requested it. He told us that we could listen, though. He gave us a little back story for “Back to Where I Was” by telling us “I wrote it.” He invited Jessie Payo to sing with him and I held her iPhone for her. (That reminds me of Dirty Dancing and Baby carrying the watermelons, but whatever.) After that, EH told a long and hilarious story about playing a corporate event in LA where no one paid any attention to him. Someone tapped him on the shoulder on stage and told him to turn so that Fergie and her hunky husband Josh Duhamel could see him better. They were very complimentary to Eric and he had a long conversation with them and shared a hamburger slider with Fergie after his set. There’s more to the story, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Eric nearly aborted the story when someone moved a chair in the audience and it made a really loud farting noise. It took a while for us all to recover from the laughing. In comedy, timing is everything. He got us back on track and played us “All Over Now,” Fergie’s favorite song from that evening, for us.
Eric told us about his college days in Boston and how he wrote and played music to maintain his sanity. He joked that there’s medication that does that now. He played “Breakdown More” for us—a song he relearned by watching a guy cover it on YouTube. He said he’d forgotten the song, like it was an old, favorite college sweatshirt that you misplaced and eventually forgot about. As if we weren’t laughing enough, EH read us some of his deep thoughts that he wrote down after being the stereotypical American who goes to Amsterdam and gets high. There was a deep thought about shoes and another about ice cream. We laughed a lot. He wrote “Shine On Me” about the experience.
I was happy to hear “Watching You Watch Him” from his new album. 98.9 WCLZ out of Portland, Maine is playing it regularly, and I think it’s catchy and insightful. He said the song is about being in love with someone who loves someone else who isn’t even interested. He also told us (I’m assuming this was a joke) that he recently took a meeting with Red Lobster (inspired by Snoop Dogg—now Snoop Lion—who sold “Drop It Like It’s Hot” to Hot Pockets?) to see about altering the lyrics to “Watching You Eat Shrimp. $10.99.” It was catchy.
EH played “The Basement” next and then opened it up for “the interview portion of the evening.” Someone asked him about his favorite soul singers and he identified Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin as some of his personal favorites. Eric told us that since there’s no real backstage area at Tupelo, we should pretend this was their last song. It would save them the long walk to and from the dressing room, and we’d be spared those minutes of our life—like TiVo. We stood and clapped and pretended it was the end of the night.
Eric encouraged us to stay standing and dance for the last couple of songs. I remembered the adorable little boy sitting behind me in the third row with his parents who I’d talked to earlier and realized he wouldn’t be able to see the stage, so I invited he and his mom to take my spot in the front for the pretend encore. From the first second of the first song I recognized it as a cover of “I Want It That Way.” It was great! EH ended the night with “Rock & Roll,” the hit song from his 2003 album That Could Have Gone Better that put him on the map.
Eric Hutchinson puts on a great live show. I had a blast. Thanks, Eric, Elliott, Jessie, and Tupelo Music Hall!