Josh Radin at the Boulder Theater, 2/28/11
"The Radin audience is an audience that loves music," said Laura Jansen in the middle of her opening set. And, I would add, chick flicks, even if, like me, they'd vehemently deny that under oath. But only the clever ones, obviously. Like When Harry Met Sally and Garden State.
In fact, Garden State was at least partially responsible for launching Cary Brothers, Radin's other opener. Brothers and Radin have both been featured on medi-drama Grey's Anatomy, which also boasts a heavily female viewership. And once Jansen's first record is released in March, it's likely that she'll be landing the same kind of spots.
The three musicians met in Los Angeles, Radin and Brothers when they played the Hotel Café, a small Hollywood venue that's built its name on featuring singer/songwriters that are about to pop; Jansen and Radin, she said, when he stopped by the restaurant where she waitressed and asked her to join his band as a keyboardist and vocalist.
As a trio, they put on a show that effectively captures the hearts of adoring female fans. Jansen, who rocked the singer songwriter uniform that includes heavy bangs and gray attire, has got pipes, talent on the keyboard and a properly self-deprecating personality, joking about her sad singer/songwriter music and the douche bag she once now dated, who now has to hear her self-indulgent song about him on the radio.
Brothers (just one man, he clarified, not a band of brothers) was the self-described "happy pb&j in the middle of the sandwich" of sad singers. His set was heavier on the rock, though he also indulged the audience with the slow, sad "Blue Eyes," harmonizing with Jansen on the song for which he first broke into the mainstream.
Both openers set a coffeehouse vibe (which, uh, was helped by the lamps that littered the stage). And they both, of course, had a song about hating Los Angeles. And by the time Radin took the stage, donning a porkpie hat and suspenders, he was more like the third in a line-up of complementary acts than a headliner.
He began without pretense, simply picking up his guitar and easing into "No Envy No Fear."
"I love this town," he said in his husky, Midwestern voice when the crowd erupted into shrill shrieks at the end. And then he told us the story of "Everything'll Be Alright," which he wrote as a lullaby for a baby while watching coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
Radin's work uses clever lyrics (replete with literary references, naturally) and catchy acoustic melodies to explore love in all of its forms, good, bad and heartbreaking. Ultimately, though, there's redemption in what he writes, and that makes for good alone-time music, indulging that secret reservoir of optimistic romanticism that's within most of us.
On-stage, though, it's sometimes charming and sometimes eye-rollingly cheesy, depending on your threshold for unadulterated talk about feelings. Radin panders to his audience, sprinkling in stories of break-ups, make-ups, lost innocence and ill-fated love affairs.
"All my friends are getting married," he posited at one point. "I think I'm the last one." The crowd swooned, girlishly. He also told us he used to skate in a circle with his fourth grade girlfriend and that he'd been the victim of timing in a relationship, with the right girl at the wrong time.
His stories entertained the imaginations of love-hungry girls (even the ones, like me, who've dated musicians and know that those obsessive, lusty lyrics are very rarely reality), but they were also humorous, adding depth to a set that covered all three of his albums, including a heavy dose of his older, lo-fi stuff because, he said, he likes to hear older songs when he sees a concert.
And he brought back his openers a couple of times: Jansen joined him to harmonize over tracks like "You've Got Growing Up to Do," and Jansen and Brothers led a clap-along to "Nowhere to Go."
"Nothing like touring with your best friends," he said with a grin.
Radin didn't really cover unexplored territory, tossing us just one track, "She's So Right," that he hasn't recorded. But the crowd probably didn't want that, anyway. We were too busy brooding, affirming and reminiscing.
This is music you fall in love to, fall out of love to, affirm self-love to and make love to. And by the time Radin played the final notes of "Bring it on Home to Me," a Sam Cooke cover representative of the type of music that held a similar significance for another generation, I'd relived every high and low of every relationship I've ever been in.
I'd probably hate that. If I didn't secretly fucking love it with every fiber of my being.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Critic's Bias: While these guys were playing the Hotel Café, I was living in LA, snatching up tracks from every Hotel Café artist that ever played. Suffice it to say that these are my people. Random Detail: Radin said he ate seafood at Jax before the show. By the Way: I'm gonna choose to ignore the encore. It was one song and negligible.
No Envy No Fear Everything'll Be Alright Rock & the Tide One of Those Days Brand New Day Nowhere to Go The Ones With The Light You Got What I Need Closer Today You Got Growing Up to Do She's So Right I'd Rather Be With You Bring it on Home to Me (Sam Cooke cover)
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