Joshua Radin headlined at Dallas’ House of Blues Wednesday night with Madi Diaz and A Fine Frenzy opening. Edge was there to catch A Fine Frenzy before the big event, and lead singer, Allison Sudol, a beautiful girl with an equally gorgeous voice, seemed frenzied indeed.
She spoke a little about her first album between songs, "I lost my way. My joy. My connections to other people and the world. And if I don’t have it inside, how can I give it to you? That’s what this whole record is about. It’s a journey."
The sentiment is lovely and in interviews she has a sweet sensibility as well. But in last night’s show, she came across as flighty and a bit fake. Her music sometimes dips into macabre circus or carnival music and other times into a downright hoedown.
You can hear Jewel and Regina Spektor in her voice. You can see a little Cameron Diaz in her face. And you can sense a little girl, a fairy girl, dancing in front of the mirror of her bedroom in her movement. You can imagine her then and she’s still there now. The problem is that it doesn’t come off as genuinely as one would hope.
She wore a modest black dress with tights and flats and she danced and spun around and sang under angelic lighting, switching between a standing microphone and a seat at the keyboards.
You can imagine her as a hipster sweetheart, all saccharine sweet smiles and silly dancing. Since it was Radin’s show, it was hard to read from the audience, which were mostly women swaying to the songs with a handful of men who looked like they’d rather be anywhere but there.
"Sometimes I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth," she told the audience. "Sometimes it’s cool and sometimes it’s weird."
Wednesday night at HOB, it was mostly weird.
And now for something completely different... so different, in fact, that it was hard to image Joshua Radin inviting A Fine Frenzy to join him on tour. The back story on that is likely fascinating.
Radin took the stage in baggy khakis and an open, denim button-down revealing an oversized tee. He wore a beanie on his head and looked every bit the handsome, authentic, tousled singer/songwriter he is.
He began his set singing sans microphone and the crowd quieted instantly, all focused on the smoky stage and dreamlike halos of light. Radin was joined on stage by band members on piano, stand up bass, drums and guitar.
"Thank you so much," he said in a surprisingly deep speaking voice as the audience hooted and cheered his first number, "No Envy No Fear."
Radin went on to play "Brand New Day" before he stopped again for some well-received stage banter about his family and that of the band’s in the audience. "It’s a family show. I love it," he said standing beneath a flood of brightly colored lights.
He teased an audience member who shouted out that she would be his yoga teacher and then said how happy he was to be back on stage after a long writing hiatus. "I really jonesed to play in front of people," he said.
After playing "Anywhere Your Love Goes," the crowd went particularly wild and Radin couldn’t have been happier. "I can already tell this is going to be a great night. So much better than Houston," he teased.
Introducing the next song he said, "When I wrote this, I was on a train in France. I was 16 with no money in my pocket and a beautiful older woman sat next to me. I couldn’t speak to her so I wrote her a poem. But I was too scared to give it to her."
Radin then talked about opener Madi Diaz, referring to her as Tinker Bell. "You clap and she’ll come out. I believe, Madi Diaz. I believe." So they did and she did.
Together they sang "Tomorrow is Gonna be Better," bathed in purple and magenta light. "It’s a hopeful song. Super hopeful," he said.
His rapport with his band and the audience should be the envy of every performer. "It’s so nice to play for a crowd that listens to us," he said and you couldn’t help but believe that he meant it.
Nearly every song had a story from the very happy to the very unhappy. "Never break up when it’s raining out and you have a shitty car. All I had was my guitar and a corduroy coat my dad gave me from the ’60s. Not good for the rain," he said before he sang "You Have Growing Up to Do," a song he said was about "being with the right person at the wrong time," calling the relationship "a victim of time."
It was a shame that there were some loud-mouthed frat boys and a couple of girls in a cat fight in the back, causing folks to move away from the unfortunate fray. There are always a few in every crowd. Ah, the joys of general admission, it seems.
Radin even played a couple of "rock songs," including one about "being put on the road, drinking whiskey, meeting people and forgetting about them the next day. But in a good way," he said with his characteristic smile. The guitarist from A Fine Frenzy then joined Radin on stage and it was the happiest that guitarist seemed all night.
The audience was also treated to a little Bluegrass that Radin called "malleable" because they can make it as long or short as they like. The Dallas audience must have been loud enough because we were treated to the energetic, extended version. Radin is as much home feverishly playing his guitar as he is crooning at the microphone.
The title song of his new album, "Underwater," is about Radin’s first time being underwater, which didn’t happen until he was an adult. As a kid he had a hole in his eardrum, which precluded underwater experiences. Now healed, the water can be his, above and below.
Radin has been on tour since June. The Dallas show marked the next to the last night, and you could feel the nostalgia in Radin’s voice, especially as the concert neared the end.
He asked for all of the lights to be off except for the lamps on-stage to "make it all romantical," he said. Radin joked that folks on a "maybe" date should go ahead and risk their friendship and make a move. "Be bold and jump in the water," he said.
It was only a few moments after he said goodnight that Radin returned to the stage. As he began to play, someone in the audience yelled, "I want to marry you!" Even Radin had to stop playing and laugh. It’s amazing what a difference being genuine makes.
"This is my making baby song," he said before singing "You Got What I Need." The pretty young woman next to me turned to me and said, "So he has get married songs and making baby songs and ruin friendship songs. He’s got everything." Indeed.
Before playing "The Greenest Grass," Radin said, "I’m feeling in a love mood. Ever since I was a kid I had trouble with being content. I always want more." That stopped for a moment with one girlfriend who he told, "This must be the place."
"She went for a hike for about an hour and I wrote this song."
Throughout the show, the band seemed as much in every moment as Radin was. And after each song, Radin said sweetly, "Thank you so much." From the sound of the applause and cheering alike, it seemed as if the audience was sending the same message right back to him.
Joshua Radin is smile-inducing true, no sticky smile on his face, just real music and real moments and him really in it all.
The show closed much like it started. No microphones were in play, just he and his guitarist playing and singing some tunes. It’s unclear what it says about us when authenticity comes as such a joy, such a surprise, and such a relief. But it was perfectly clear how happy everyone was to have it wash over him or her.