Tyler was joined by Peter Rodocker and Jeremy Gibons on guitar, Ravi Gidad on keys, and performing for the first time for Tyler, 16 year old Adam Jones on drums. Stenson's next show will be June 12 at the Alberta Rose Theater.
Nathan McEuen started the evening with a 35 minute solo acoustic set alternating between guitar and banjo, a very special banjo at that. An accomplished musician in his own right, he is also the son of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's founding member, John McEuen, who first introduced the banjo to his children. It was this connection that eventually led to the treasured Deering banjo that he played last night. This banjo's former owner was none other than Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse from 1977 until his death in 2009. His wife and voice of Minnie Mouse, Russi Taylor, gifted Nathan with Wayne's banjo. As a tribute to the couple, he wrote a beautiful instrumental banjo piece, Mice. The first part of the song pays homage to their meeting and the second to the magic that befell them as Minnie and Mickey, Mr. and Mrs.
"Grand Design," is a songco-written with Crosby Loggins, and is about following their Dad's on the road.
The Naomi LaViolette Tri
Written on his way to Portland, "Up to No Good," laments, I'm not looking for trouble, trouble's always looking for me; I'm the best at bad decisions, always up to no good; and What's so bad about feeling so good? This song could be the theme song for many a wayward soul.
For "all the lovers in the audience", he ended his set with a cover of Elvis' It's Now or Never. Having never heard Nathan before, his was a performance filled with depth, humor, and talent. During his stay in Portland, he also performed with Keegan Smith at Splash Bar on Monday night.
Sandwiched between Nathan and Tyler's set was the lovely, sultry sounds of the Naomi LaViolette Trio. She opened with the wistful, "Hey Yeah," from her debut album, Naomi LaViolette. Written when she was feeling sad, she turned it around with, hey yeah, it's okay, I'm just tryin' to find my way, find my sunny day. Those sunny days with their sunny rays can sometimes seem few and far between.
Being a sucker for love songs she wrote, "You've Got Me," at a time when she wasn't in love but had the memory of falling in love: I dreamed you, and all the things that we'd do so now I feel like I know you. Naomi felt she needed the male perspective so Justin Jude co-wrote it with her over Skype. From the opening melody, it sounds like love and one can imagine a happy couple holding hands, skipping in a field of daisies. The audience clearly felt it too as they danced and swayed to the beat.
Since life is all about a healthy balance she gave us a jolt with three break up songs; "Stay Away" and "Ship Going Down,"from the new album, You've Got Me, followed by a terrific rendition of Dolly Parton's, "Jolene." She ended the set with Blind Faith's, "Can't Find My Way Home." Listening to Naomi sing is like a soothing cup of tea on a rainy afternoon with the right amount of spiciness as the sun breaks through.
By the time headliner, Tyler Stenson, took the stage, the place was packed. Being an ardent fan of his, I was happy to be in the midst of many other Tyler supporters.
To say that he commands a huge following is putting it mildly. This self-marketing marvel has engineered more fan-based contests, and won them, then we have ever seen. He's been named 'Songwriter of the Year' twice, the PMA's Best Male Artist, performed with Adam Duritz, his mentor, of Counting Crows, opened for several national acts, had songs used in commercials, has stations on Pandora, and SiriusXM's "Coffee House" channel, and many more such accomplishments.
Tyler returned to Portland that morning after a whirlwind flight to Denver, drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming, his home-state, to play at a visionary event, then back home for this show. He played three new songs in his 13 song set, and humored us with a couple of sing-a-longs. He opened with the new, "Devil Doesn't Know Your Name',"which had more of a Pop vibe than most of the songs in his repertoire.
"To all the ladies from all the guys" he sang, "Lover Things": I think back to the Garden's first days, and the reason that a woman was made, and believe it was an "up above" gesture to say: So long Emptiness, hello Sweet Grace.
The first sing-a-long was to "Best Laid Plans"... He tells us that when best laid plans fail, we must believe: That which might have been, can yet still be.
The song, "Blush": Signs of a temperature rise spread across your face and in an instant you know what Love is like, was performed for the first time with a full band. It took Tyler 6 years to write and then record it. Having liked the solo version, it sounded wonderful with the full band behind it. As is the case with all his music, his songs can stand alone with only a guitar, or rounded out with a band.
During the two years he spent in Nashville, he "felt like a foolish little fish" and had a WTF (well that's frustrating) moment which led to the beginning of his Some Days I'm a Lion album. Tyler is such a great storyteller, and he came up with a brilliant idea to do a self-interview YouTube segment for each song on the album. See more videos HERE.
Tyler always like to throw in his two all-time favorite songs towards the end and he does equal justice to them both. The first one he played is James Taylor's, "Carolina Liar," and another that the audience sang along to. His favorite song of all time, and the last one he played, was to Gladys Knight and the Pips', "Midnight Train to Georgia." He covers this song remarkably well, a rendition I'm sure Gladys would be happy with.
A Tyler Stenson show never disappoints. His is a lyrically-driven, "eloquent Americana" music. As Don Was told him following his Guitar Center Contest performance, "The last time I witnessed someone with your kind of presence and voice, that leaped out beyond the speakers and pulled me in, was when I worked with one Garth Brooks. You have it man." And he has it in spades!