Another Side of Jason Collett

I am pretty sure that if Zeus, or God or whoever, was motivated enough to make an attempt at incarnating Grace (with a capital “G”) into a human form, the result would look, walk and sing much like Jason Collett, who came to our town on Saturday.  It was Collett’s second visit to our town this year, but the respective performances couldn’t have been more different.

Last time Collett came through, he brought a big ol’ crew with him, namely, Zeus and Bahamas.  I reviewed that show, so I decided to take this one off and take it in without having to fully analyze it and put it into words.  Essentially, I just wanted to get drunk and have a good time without thinking about anything at all: Collett made that impossible, however, two songs in, I started taking notes.

It takes a lot of talent and personality to hold a crowd’s (especially if that crowd is gathered in a bar) attention with only a guitar, microphone, glass of wine and, at times, harmonica at your disposal.  Some artists, such as Jeff Tweedy, have actually called their audience out on the chatter between and, even worse, during songs.  I’ve always felt, being an avid Dylan fan, it is up to the artist to quiet their venues dull roar.  Dylan could/can do this: his words seemingly hypnotizing the most rambunctious of crowds into silence.  Jason Collett can do it too: as we all were quick to find out this Saturday night.

Like Dylan, boots, tight pants and all, Collett transfixed his audience (sadly, of about only 100 people or so) immediately upon stepping to the stage.  It was an incredibly intimate show, partially due to the venue (Lucky Bar), but mostly because of Collett’s gracious and candid presence.  He shared stories about what had inspired the composition of some of his songs, most notably, my personal favorite, “Almost Summer”, before playing impeccable acoustic renditions of his ever growing canon.  At times, when Collett paused to take a breath, or a sip of his red, red wine, I could hear the hum of the fans above the dance floor: I have never heard Lucky Bar, so deathly quiet.

But he made us laugh too: quite loudly, at that.  His stories about the tour and about growing up in Catholic School (both, from the sounds of it, difficult to endure, at times) were as polished as the wine glass sitting on the chair next to him.  A master story teller and an even better musician, Collett never once let go of the adoring gaze of those of us “Lucky” enough to be there.

I must admit, before I go on, that I was a bit worried about the show.  I have come to love Jason Collett’s new, collaborative album (he enlisted youngsters Zeus, to back him up on this one), Rat A Tat Tat so much, that I was kind of scared that the stripped down versions of the songs would be disappointing, if not boring: they were not.  Instead, we were given the rare opportunity to see the seeds of these songs, seeds which, somehow, are every bit as beautiful as their eventual studio flowering.  The phrase, “singer songwriter” is often abused. I choose to reserve it for an elite group of folk such as Karen Dalton, Neil Young and, of course, Bobby himself and, if Saturday night told me anything, it was that Collett too, might be a rare contemporary member of this distinguished party.

Upon finishing his encore, Collett immediately ran back to the merch Booth to autograph copies of his album and be hit on by the more courageous/intoxicated members of the audience.  Again, Collett was consummately graceful, smiling bashfully at all the attention he was receiving.  Some of us were bold enough to tell him about a show going on at Logan’s and he actually came out, trying impossibly to become invisible and get to know some of ‘our music’: again, he was swarmed, again, he was graceful.  It was really great to see someone handle himself so well.

We were spoiled this year, having seen two very different sides of Collett.  I think we were all pretty happy to find out that Jason has a brother out here, so hopefully we can expect to see him again soon: it will be interesting to see which Jason Collett shows up next time.  Until then, we spin our signed records and try to graft a bit of his seemingly infinite grace into our own lives.

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