REVIEW: Anderson East at the Pabst Theater
It wasn’t long ago that Anderson East graced Milwaukee. This time around he came back with a ton more love and a show that he made sure Milwaukee would remember. First thing I noticed was how different the crowd this was, sure the last time was the last day of Summerfest at a small stage, but I did not expect the crowd to be so absolutely full with fans. The man is doing something right. While I sat up in the 200 level section I could see the ground floor was filled with fans that did not sit down for the entire show. Which was completely understandable for the amount of energy Anderson brought to The Pabst.
Grandson of an Alabamian Baptist preacher it’s clear where Anderson East draws his roots. The man has soul for days. His vocals scream and his pitches change with precision like that of someone in a church choir on Sunday. This show was the epitome of the soul/blues revival that is happening with music today. It is respectable and something my generation can relate to since most of our parents listened to the legends like Aretha Franklin and James Brown. Which made it all the more satisfying when he opened his show with Devil In Me. Right out the gate, you are witness to those huge sounds you’ve come to expect. Big horns, soulful piano, guitars, bass, drums, and who can forget, Anderson East’s scraggily yet smooth voice. The man has cultivated a sound for himself that bands work decades on. He’s done it with two records.
It wasn’t until the fourth song that Anderson decided to greet his excited crowd. He is southern charm at it’s finest. The poor guy, ridden with a cold after being in Milwaukee three days prior to the show, admitted he was under the influence of cold meds and Irish Whiskey. Although being a bit of brevity, you could tell he wasn’t feeling the best. Which is what made his show even more impressive. Never seeming to want to leave that moment he soaked up all the “I love you Andersons” he received. As he was tuning his guitar he stated “Contrary to my southern accent, I don’t really play country music. So here’s a Willie Nelson cover.” As he played Someone Pick Up My Pieces it was made clear that we were here for his show. He wanted to play something special for us to remember the night by.
For someone who just released an album this past year, I was surprised at the number of songs he played off his debut album. Maybe touring that long makes playing the same album old, but it was a welcome treat as he then played three back to back songs off his debut album Delilah. It was after this where we got a truly different experience. Have you ever heard a soulful cover of Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy? We did and it was incredible! It was during this time did Anderson take his time to show off his band. Starting with his pianist, who went on to play a face-melting solo to his horn section, it’s clear he chose these guys by hand. They flow together with a tremendous harmony unrivaled by any other kind of band out there right now. All while the band played, Anderson ran around the stage with movement similar to those of James Brown.
After that, he switched back to his newest album Encore which has a much more uplifting vibe to finish out the set. Songs like All On My Mind, Girlfriend and House Is a Building all filled the venue up with hip-shaking joy and invited the crowd to sing with him as they are a bit more. As he closed out his set the crowd stayed and the band cleared out. Anderson only left the stage for a moment thankfully because we clearly wanted more. The encore is finally upon us and he tells us he is going to play a song he doesn’t play very often, Cabinet Door. The lights get low and a blue spotlight splashes Anderson with some light. As he started the song, the room fell absolutely silent. He highlights all the things he remembers about growing up with his grandfather and his huge family. Typically I am not a fan of a somber song for an encore, but this was something truly personal and important to him. There was not a dry eye in the entire theater. Go listen to this song if you miss someone and prepare yourself to ugly cry. No joke. It was haunting and beautiful and something I never thought I’d want for an encore song, but it was phenomenal. Thankfully, he didn’t leave the stage but instead invited his band back to play/jam the fuck out to This Too Shall Last. Much like the show. I didn’t want it to end.
Anderson East is a guy who really knows how to fill up a concert hall. I can’t wait to see this band again and relive all the feelings I felt that Friday evening at the Pabst. Go see this man if you love music, take your wife, kids, parents, and friends because there is something special to be heard at his shows. Something that I feel music lost a long time ago and he’s back to make it known what it was like.
Devil In Me
If You Keep Leaving Me
Somebody Pick Up My Pieces (Willie Nelson cover)
Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Sam & Dave cover)
What a Woman Wants to Hear
Lying in Her Arms
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy (Rod Stewart cover)
All On My Mind
House Is A Building
This Too Shall Last