One year ago, before the proper release of his biggest album yet Delilah, Anderson East played the Bowery Ballroom solo opening for Sturgill Simpson. One year and one day later, many of those passed by on the road including at least three other shows in New York City, East returned to the Bowery stage as the headliner with his full band in tow. The Nashville based artist has seen his star continue to rise and this show was sold out well in advance. And after seeing him several times before, East proved himself to be a capable and versatile headliner. Another Nashville based artist, Andrew Combs opened for East and his set was well-received by the Americana and country loving audience. Combs performed tracks off his two albums, Worried Man and All These Dreams, with the title track from the latter being a particular highlight of his set. Combs then went down to sign autographs for his newly minted fans.
No longer able to glide by offering up tastes from his album, East and his band had a full show planned, including covers and the two quiet tracks from Delilah I had yet to hear live, “What a Woman Wants to Hear” and “Lying in Her Arms”. These two numbers came near the middle of the set with East dismissing his band for a short bit. As the latter progressed, the band began to return in parts, with the horn section (trumpet and sax) out first, adding more vibrancy to the touching song. East’s popular covers were inspired and included Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”, Faces’ “Stay With Me”, David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” and, an almost cut version of The Killers “All These Things I’ve Done” that closed out the night. The Mariah song was really well done and “Rebel Rebel” was touching as East noted the loss of the great inspiration Bowie. But of course one of East’s most popular numbers, “Find ‘Em…” is a cover too, a lesser known Muscle Shoals track by George Jackson. The show kicked off with that powerful song the horns letting loose right at the get-go.
Half the fun of watching East perform is catching his interactions with lead guitarist and divine truth-teller Scotty Murray. The two play off each other so well, though at one point the pushing led both of them to tumble onto their backs. Murray’s preacher bit, seeking to treat and ail those in the audience with maladies, such as having one leg slightly shorter than the other, was hilarious and he struggled to keep his grin under control. The equally charismatic East stirred up different, less (mock) spiritual, sensations in the audience when he passed out roses to the ladies in the crowd (pretty much everyone in the front row was a female).
As this was the fifth time I’ve seen East live, I was excited to experience a more commanding show from the guy from a small Alabama town who felt intimidated by the big city. East’s superb songs and his tendency to have fun with himself and the band has coalesced into a show that will leave an impression on your spirit. It will be thrilling to see how East’s fire grows in the next year — soon the Big Apple might be intimidated by him.