Seth Glier is a man of many parts and even more contradictions. His lyrics often rise from the social change or personal introspection tradition, but the music owes more to Billy Joel and Tin Pan Alley than Pete Seeger or Leonard Cohen; he has a band, but sings a cappella regularly; his music is often heavily percussive and rhythmic, but his band has no drummer; he plays national folk festivals, but has a saxophone player who wears a tuxedo. Glier, 26 and himself decked out in coat and tie, says, “I’m not really an adult, but I dress like one.”
He also writes songs like an adult. He majored in composition at Berklee, but dropped out after one year to perform full-time. The Linda show was on the heels of a sold-out show in New York City, and the day before a sold-out show in Plattsburgh, so apparently Glier made the right decision. In Albany, his audience came from far and wide: one couple had traveled from Binghamton, and a fellow with a heavy French accent told Glier he’d come from Montreal because he couldn’t get tickets to the Plattsburgh show. Glier offered him a free CD (Answer: “Thank you, I already have it.”) and gave the guy his cellphone number in case he had trouble in the future. This artist builds his audience one fan at a time, and in doing so is sure to keep them for life.
These shows are part of a album-release tour, and Glier went through most of his new record, If I Could Change One Thing, introducing many of the songs with the very personal stories behind them. “Love Is a Language” came from Glier’s caretaker role for his beloved, nonverbal autistic big brother, and “You Wear It Well,” centered on his parents’ divorce after three decades of marriage.
I loved one breakup-inspired song that’s not on the new album, “I Saw My Couch on Craig’s List.” It’s one of the funniest songs ever, but most of Glier’s repertoire involves the fairly serious business of making things better, from an optimist’s point of view. “If I Could Change One Thing,” the only duet on the album, has a pop feel and a gut-wrenching hook, and can be compared easily to Bruno Mars’ deceptively simple megahit, “When I Was Your Man.” Like most of the songs on the album, Glier delivers the song with more genuine feeling in performance than on the album, which has a poppier vibe. Don’t take that as a criticism: if we harken back to Crosby Stills & Nash, the Animals and the Byrds, all those groups did exactly the same thing, namely, introduce a call for social change into a popular music genre. Glier ended his show with an a cappella version of “You Always Hurt The One You Love,” morphing it from barbershop quartet style into a doo wop number, complete with a finger-popping, upbeat vibe.
Leaving the stage, he told us that he’d partnered with Child Fund International, and gave a pitch for donations, ending with, “I’ll be over at the table with donation forms and signing CDs. If it comes down to a choice between making a donation and buying a CD, please make the donation, and I’ll give you the CD.” Glier, relaxed and chatty, stayed until the very last person had left the hall. Here’s a guy who puts his money where his mouth is. Bravo for a fine performance from an artist who not only dresses and writes like an adult, but who acts like one.
– Suzanne Cadgène