By: Christine Terrisse
Tyrone Wells with Emily Hearn and Dominic Balli
House of Blues Anaheim
In his three pronged career strategy–songwriting, recording and regular live performance–Tyrone Wells lays out a blueprint for today's working musician. Central to this blueprint is a precept that flies in the face of fickle music trends: If you maintain a relationship with your audience and consistently give them what they want, they will quite literally support you.
That relationship was on full display Saturday night at the House of Blues. Although not entirely sold out, both ground and balcony levels of the concert seemed packed. It was a remarkably mixed group of Boomers and bonafide Millennials, (no doubt the current offspring of the coffee shop crowd of his past.)
Worth noting, is how early most of his audience showed up. Apparently, part of the fun of a Tyrone Wells show is knowing that his guest performer selection is as carefully curated as an old Porter Wagoner revue.
Collectively, Wells and his two opening acts are mainstream, yet musically substantive. All three delivered plenty of personal anecdotes: interludes weaved between songs firmly centered on universal love and private devotion.
First up, Emily Hearn hailing from Georgia. Hearn is a young, neo-folk singer with a pop sensibility. One could imagine her sound as the product of a Berklee College of Music educated Taylor Swift. "Oak Trees" was a set highlight, its melody allowing her solidly mid-range voice to border on ethereal when hitting high notes.
Then came Dominic Balli, an ebullient dreadlocked singer whose Cali-reggae is weirdly successful in South America."For some reason 80% of my fan base is in Brazil," he says. His pure fun, "all we need is love" tunes delivered without a touch of irony or darkness had the audience clapping along; with complexity seeping in on "What We Found in the Dark."
As he burst onto the stage with a full band playing "Neon Dreams" off his new album Roll With It, it is clear Wells is the main act. In less masterful hands, a stylistic switch from mostly acoustic compositions to a more produced sound would fall flat. Not with Wells, whose vocals are as impeccable recorded as live. Moreover, his five-piece band possessed the ability to replicate the layered production sound of his new album.
The 10-plus-song set was a well-crafted ride, balancing jokes and stories between stretches where one song immediately picked up into the next. Despite the smoothness of it all, there were gems of unrehearsed perfection.
A little voice interrupted as he neared the end of "I Will Love You," which Wells penned for his now four-year-old daughter. The subject of the song was in attendance, calling to her father from the balcony above. "I love you Daddy!" she yelled. "I've been gone a long time, so that means a lot to me" he says, visibly emotional.
Things took a church revival turn as the band, along with Hearn and Balli, joined him on the uplifting "Let It Go" their voices seamlessly blending.
Closing out the show, everyone left the stage save Tyrone, as he donned a harmonica for the unabashedly Gospel "All Is Said and Done." Stopping the guitar and stepping away from the mic, arms outstretched, the full soul power of his voice unleashed in the raw. Before walking off the stage he looked out at the audience as his eyes once again, fill with tears.