Craig Owens + The Color Fred: 7 April, 2009 – New York City, Highline Ballroom

Craig Owens has always been a shy guy, but on his solo tour he’s become more available and open. When he came up with the idea of a solo run, without Chiodos and Cinematic Sunrise, the bands he fronts, he originally wanted to play in front of less than 100 people every night. In order to meet the high demands of ticket sales, he eventually embraced the idea of playing bigger shows. Although the setting was not as intimate as he’d like, the packed out Highline Ballroom show was hardly small, brimming at a 700-person capacity.

Setting the stage for Owens was Fred Mascherino of The Color Fred, who was as entertaining as he was exhilarating and gutsy. Operating alone with just his acoustic guitar in a dimly lit room with anticipative onlookers, Mascherino played a culmination of everything he’s written throughout his decades long career. The set included Taking Back Sunday’s “New American Classic”, Breaking Pangaea’s “Lullaby,” and songs off The Color Fred’s Bend To Break album. Mascherino’s communication with the crowd was constant and he also played a varied set of covers. From a bluesy Mick Martin song to a couple chords of “Billie Jean” to an unparalleled cover of Led Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way”, Mascherino kept on top of his performance by showcasing his wide-ranging vocal and performance abilities.

After Mascherino’s solid showing Craig Owens took the stage with a drummer and guitarist and delivered an impressive rendition of “A Letter From Janelle” off of Chiodos’ Bone Palace Ballet. Ownes’ set list drew from both Chiodos and Cinematic Sunrise songs as well as songs he’s written to showcase to his fans in an informal and close setting. “It’s fun things that I wrote that I’d just like to share with people,” Craig told PopMatters. “I really just want to be an open book because you never know if there’s a treasure that you don’t share with the world that people will really enjoy.” One of those treasures is an untitled song to his girlfriend Joanna, that’s garnered a big response from fans who have been pressing Owens to record the track.

Owens also dug into the cover song pool, playing a Bright Eyes track, and “Eldorado” by Edgar Allan Poe. As his set continued, this self proclaimed awkward and uptight singer was funny, open, and most of all vocally on point. At the end of the set he delivered intimate unplugged renditions of “I Didn’t Say I Was Powerful, I Said I Was A Wizard”, “Intensity In Ten Cities”, and “Umbrellas and Elephants” where he sat at the end of the stage and sang to a quiet, seated crowd. The hauntingly beautiful display of Owens’ vocals ended the show as personally and warmly as it had begun.

“I’ve played Madison Square Garden and I played Roseland,” he said “and this has been my favorite New York show.”

PopMatters