In only his second time ever in Myrtle Beach — the first being a skinny dipping-filled college trip — popular singer-songwriter Amos Lee lit up the House of Blues Wednesday night with a set of tracks that spanned his catalog of four albums.
While highlighting his chart-topping album "Mission Bell" released earlier this year, the Philadelphia native also leaned heavily on material from his self-titled first album and at times delved into blues, gospel and soul-flavored tunes while staying true to his acoustic, folksy roots.
The night began with a performance from Southern songstress Sonia Leigh, a Georgia native whose soulful style of playing fit perfectly with the vibe of the evening. Playing an acoustic set, accompanied by a single partner, Matt, Leigh grabbed the attention of a laid-back, yet attentive crowd of fans which ranged from well-to-do looking twentysomethings to middle aged folks and even a couple bikers thrown in for good measure.
Though her set was short, the gravely-voiced Leigh did her best to mix in a few upbeat numbesr amongst a grouping of more introspective, somber tracks. After singing a touching song about a girl she used to love, Leigh — decked out in here best KD Lang look-alike attire — stopped to joke about playing some of "that darn Lesbian music," to big laughs from the crowd.
She closed our her time on stage with a single off her upcoming debut album "1978 December" which will be released in Spetmeber via country star Zac Brown's new label Southern Ground Artists. The song, called "My Name Is Money" was a clever and catchy little country-tinged number about the neverending problems that the almighty dollar povides in life.
During a roughly 40-minute break between performers, the curtians remained open on the HOB stage and as the stage crew brought out a number of instruments to the stage — banjo, upright bass and steel guitar to name a few — the crowd was left to wonder exactly what Lee, known mostly for his solo acoustic material, had in store for the evening.
Soon after, Lee took the stage with a band of seven members — inclduing a banjo player that was a dead ringer for Zach Galafinakis and a bassist which resembled Randy Jackson — and perched himself atop a stool where he would remain seated throughout the show. The lack of movement, he claimed, was due to an injury he had suffered in the day leading up to the show that left his shoulder injured and unable to be raised above his head.
However, Lee quickly made up for low-impact nature of his performance with a succession of hits that highlighted hs beautifully soulful vocals and got a dedicated crowd of fans singing along and cheering from the get go. Starting with recent-favorite "El Camino," Lee rolled into "Supply and Demand" and "Bottom of the Barrel" before taking a step back into "a sing about betrayal" called "Careless."
As he moved on, Lee went into "an old Blues song" from his first record with "Dreamin'" before delicately working into "Over The Rainbow" which promoted a straight-laced forthsomething fellow in my vicinity to scream "Oh! This is my song!" and then belt out the lyrics loud enough to nearly drown out the performer himself.
That outburst was just one of many that showed the relatively small crowd of fans — maybe 500 total — were VERY devoted fans of Lee, with a large portion of the crowd singing along with nearly every selection. As audience members bellowed out their requests, Lee stated "All the songs you're screaming, we will get to by the way...we're just getting started."
From there Lee launched into "Cup of Sorrow" a new tune which he said had been deeply inspired by listening to Bluegrass legends the Stanley Brothers and also played his newest single "Flowers" for which he'd just released a video.
After sharing his story about the only other time he was in Myrtle Beach while attending school at USC in Columbia, the band departed and Lee played 4-5 solo acoustic songs. These included the hit "Colors" originally recorde with Norah Jones, "Southern Girl" which received great response from the crowd and an unreleased tarck called "Johnson Boulevard."
When the band came back Lee talked about how family was a big inspiration in his music before playing back-to-back songs about his own family members including the Gospel-influenced "Jesus" (about his grandfather's death). This was followed by an upbeat rendition of "Street Corner Preacher" which really got the crowd moving and "Black River" a tune which Lee calimed was one of the first he ever finished while starting out here in S.C.
After a shamelessly goofy plea for merchandise sales, Lee closed out the set with "Misson Bell" hit "Windows Are Open." After a quick departure, the band returned for a 3-song encore which featured some of his best-known material in "Night Rain," "Sweet Pea" and the touching closer "Arms of a Woman."
Overall, while Lee's low-impact performance might not have done much to win over new fans, it's safe to say he did plenty to please the highly-biased crowd of people in attendance who were already sold on loving every minute of Lee's retrospective rundown of hits.
Check out some footage from the show: