Words by James Farrell | Photo by Nick Karp
Allen Stone joined his band on stage sporting a blue full-brimmed hat, a green jacket covered with colored blotches, and one of those fringed suede vests from the 60s. Throw in his shoulder-length blond hair and the two fingers he held out as a sign of peace, and he might as well have been appearing at Woodstock instead of the tightly packed House of Blues.
Regardless of where he was, Stone certainly preached like he was at Woodstock. During one song, the self-described “hippie with soul” began rocking back and forth to the beat of his band, asking his new Boston friends to join him in a “universal sway,” one that could generate a euphoric energy strong enough to “reach out and touch.” Stone preached masterfully, the crowd swayed eagerly, and the communal vibes of peace, love, and happiness never faded after that.
The R&B/soul singer famed for his pitch perfect voice has been on tour for his forthcoming album, RADIUS. His band, a highly talented seven-piece funk outfit, would be worth the price of the ticket by itself, let alone with Stone’s powerhouse vocals.
Admittedly, the group got off to a slow start. Perhaps it was merely the consequence of following the rampantly explosive opening act, Bad Rabbits, but Stone’s smooth and dreamy first three songs felt a little flat, even dragging at times. It wasn’t until Stone’s wavering falsettos on “Celebrate Tonight”—the song that introduced the “universal sway”—that the band took control of the energy.
Stone’s music is a hybrid between the funky crispness of Stevie Wonder and the unabashed spirit of the psychedelic 60s. The band expertly performed everything from soothing, sensual love songs like “Figure It Out,” to frenetic rock songs like “Satisfaction,” to subversive political inquiries like “Unaware.” In the latter song, Stone adjusted the original lyrics by adding an expletive, singing “Everyday, taxes increase / so is this our land, or is it our motherfucking lease?” The crowd roared with urgent approval.
“Contact High,” was one of the many highlights of the night, beginning with a gospel-like organ and vocal duet before breaking into a particularly smooth, falsetto-infused piece of R&B mastery. “Quit Calling Me” featured an incredible guitar and keyboard/voicebox duel that put the band’s musical proficiency out on display. The encore featured a heart-wrenching cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Stone’s version carried all the pleading, soulful angst that the original loses in its quirky arrangement and upbeat rhythms.
On stage, Stone was in complete control, forging a community between his music and his people. He performed with both the authority of a preaching reverend and the humility of a grateful friend. Every high note, every wild dance move, and every political lyric was met with enthusiastic “yeahs” and “woos”: the concert equivalents of a spirited congregation’s “amen.” He returned every cheer with a dumbfounded smile or a sincerely mouthed “thank you.”
During one of the more psychedelic jams of the night, Stone spoke to the audience. He said there was an energy in the room “that can only be created when real human beings pick up real instruments and play real music…for real human beings.” The crowd confirmed this with its loudest applause of the night. When he came back out for his encore, he was holding a beer. He held it up to the screaming people and said, “Cheers to Boston, Massachusetts. Y’all have succeeded in making a complete stranger feel like family.”
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