Review – Rayland Baxter

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It was a mild January night when Rayland Baxter took to the stage at the Back Room at Colectivo. The sold-out crowd filled the room perfectly as Rayland Baxter and his band walked up to cheering fans. As the singer/songwriter began his set it was clear that no one would be ready for this kind of night. Well, maybe not that extreme, but I definitely wasn’t.

I’d like to say the Back Room is such a kickass spot for a venue that when you hear how good the artists sound in it you almost wish they would move it to a bigger venue. But I feel like that would strip the fans of an experience. The fact you can say you are going to a coffee shop and see the likes of Rayland Baxter really cracks me up. Then once you are there you see the crowd is all clearly there to see them and some of that laughter changes to pure joy. I love it.

Rayland Baxter warmed his fans up with Strange American Dream, hot off the press from his latest album “Wide Awake” and from that point, we were shown just how much talent this man brings to his shows. Everything sounded polished, each band member complimenting each other but never detracting from Rayland Baxter’s chill voice. I will say, I was most impressed with how much Rayland Baxter jams in his songs. Sometimes he would step into a guitar solo for what seemed like 4 minutes, but still cohesive to the song. It was pretty rock and roll, and the crowd was really into it.

I’ve mentioned in other reviews how sometimes seeing bands with a newly released album tend to play only a few hits and stick to their new content the most. While this certainly makes sense I always find it welcome to hear an artist who plays a perfect amalgamation of both. Rayland Baxter did just that. It felt that the first half of the show was more of their new stuff, but the second half was a display of how talented he is and how grateful he is to his fans for supporting him. Some of these singer-songwriters get a bit of an ego (ahem Father John Misty), but Rayland kept it real and humble just like his music.

It did seem that the crowd thinned out a bit as the show went on, but that didn’t slow the momentum of the show in the slightest bit. The show really seemed to step into a whole different vibe right as Bad Things began. It went from a free-spirited happy folk vibe to a sexy, grungy blue rock filled vibe that carried out the rest of the show. This is where Rayland showed his true guitar playing chops. This dude seriously wails on his guitar, something that really came out of left field to me. It was epic.

With a few other great hits thrown in there like Willy’s Song, Casanova, Hey Laracco and Yellow Eyes, Rayland Baxter capped off an amazing shy of a two-hour show. I can’t wait for him to come back to Milwaukee, I’d see him in an instant. Between perfect old-timey piano playing, laid back steel guitar, and some very bird-like whistling, Rayland Baxter has plenty of music to create and maybe next time he will be in a bigger venue, but part of me hopes I can experience a show like his in that exact same setting.

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