In Thursday night's show at the Turner Hall Ballroom, Eric Hutchinson delighted his fans and managed to have an encore that overshadowed his set.
The stage was decorated with a large city skyline backdrop, accented by colored lights comparable to the one illuminating the Marquette Interchange at night. Backed by a band consisting of drums, bass and keyboard, Hutchinson entered after a musical interlude that felt like something straight out of a late-night talk show.
Immediately it was clear how at ease Hutchinson was as he moved around the stage and danced while playing his guitar. Vocally and musically, Hutchinson is very reminiscent of Jason Mraz, so it makes sense that the two have toured together in the past. Also like Mraz, Hutchinson's fan base consists of many dedicated female fans that made their support known throughout Thursday.
Buoyed by the strong support from the audience after playing a few songs, Hutchinson said, "This is like having a huge lead in a basketball game. We just have to play our game and keep it going." He then said that he would be playing a number of songs from his recent release, "Moving Up Living Down," and that those who knew the words were welcome to sing along.
For those who weren't as confident with the lyrics, Hutchinson gave his blessing for them to simply move their mouths to make it seem like they knew the songs. The song which garnered the biggest reaction was "Watching You Watch Him," the single from the aforementioned new album. With Turner Hall split between those standing in the front half and those sitting in the back half, this song prompted many of those seated to get up and move around.
Hutchinson also showed a keen sense of humor by improvising a Caribbean-sounding tune with repeated lyrics about how it felt like the band was playing on a cruise ship. His introduction for the song "I'm Not There Yet" also got laughs from the crowd. Hutchinson explained that he wrote the song in Paris, France, recorded it in London, England and would be performing it now in Milwaukee, America.
The initial set closed with "OK, It's Alright With Me" from Hutchinson's 2007 album "Sounds Like This," thanking the crowd and walking off with the band. The lights went down as the Turner Hall Ballroom crowd clamored for an encore. However, the lights stayed down even as the band returned to the stage. Even when Hutchinson launched in to the first song of the encore, the performers were all still in the dark.
In a beautiful moment of collective intelligence, audience members surrounding the stage turned on their cell phones and turned them to face Hutchinson and the band. The combined glow was impressive and provided adequate lighting. The song itself didn't even seem to matter, just the fact that everyone was taking part in something so unique.
When the lights came back on seconds into the next song, it felt like a disappointment that such a neat little moment was over. With the lighting restored, Hutchinson concluded the show with his song "The Basement," taking time during an instrumental break to highlight his three bandmates and let the audience know that he'd be sticking around post-show to sign merchandise.
Avalanche City served as the opening act for the evening, drawing in the crowd with their impressive sound. Led by New Zealander Dave Baxter, Avalanche City sounded a bit like Mumford and Sons, and while a number of songs sounded alike, the band still won over a number of fans over the course of their set.
Baxter with joined by two multi-instrumentalists who played the accordion, keyboard, trombone, tambourine and miniature xylophone in addition to their stringed instruments. Making the feat even more impressive was that these two players aren't regular members of the band and joined Baxter in lieu of the Kiwis that couldn't make the trip with him to the States. It sure didn't seem like the three had only played together for a limited period of time, as their 45-minute set was initially the highlight of the night ... before the lights went out in Turner.
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