Photos by Arnie Goodman
Amos Lee delivers the deepest, brownest, blue-eyed soul since James Hunter and Amy Winehouse. A hundred or so of the truly hip turned up at John Varvatos’ Bowery location to have that plain fact driven home in just five songs.
Ably backed by Jaron Olevsky on keyboards, Zach Djanikian (guitar), Adam Blackstone on bass, and Mark Colenburg (drums), the band produced a well-balanced sound, no small feat in the cozy retail space that once housed the famous CBGB nightclub and now boasts floor-to-ceiling memorabilia, fashionably mismatched furniture and designer clothes for those lucky souls whose jobs have no dress code.
The first of his four-song set began with “Windows Are Rolled Down,” a fervent, soulful, love song to life itself, and swung into “Vaporize,” presented with strong rhythms and soaring vocals. “Walls” (lyrics: She’s writing on my walls) showed off this former teacher’s skills in a singer/songwriter mode rather than straight R&B, but that soulful voice still shined.
The band left Lee and Olevsky onstage as a duo for the encore, “Spirit,” the title track of his new album. If you want to get a feel for Amos Lee, this is the tune to start with. Honest sentiments, instinctive vocal changes simply presented and simply perfect, this guy puts it all together, as flawless and timeless as any pyramid.
Formerly on Blue Note but recently signed to Varvatos’ Republic record label, hopefully Lee will become more of a music staple from now on. You can eat a mountain of low-cal soft serve and still be hungry, or you can have an ounce of gelato and feel satisfied: it’s all in the density. Amos Lee is gelato—rich, creamy, honey-sweet and oh so satisfying.