Shawn McDonald Live at the Cup 'O Joy 4/26/2013 as reviewed in the Phantom Tollbooth

It is McDonald’s quiet energy and personable closeness which makes his concerts more memorable than most.

Shawn McDonald
In Concert at the Cup ‘O Joy
Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA
Friday, April 26, 2013

Change, by definition, is to make different. Change defines The Analog Sessions album and its supporting concert. The Analog Sessions is McDonald’s latest release (see related album review in the June, 2013 edition of Phantom Tollbooth). What makes this album and this concert series different?

  • The Analog Sessions was recorded on vintage analog recording equipment with the sessions recorded live with McDonald’s new band. This difference has translated to the live music McDonald and his band are performing.
  • Having a full band of permanent musicians touring with McDonald is a change from his normal solo or single accompanist concerts of the past. There is something new and proud in their sound.
  • There is a new feel to the music, both live and on the album. The feel is underscored by a raw, more soulful sound.

The band, consisting of McDonald on vocals and acoustic guitar, Nathan Hiltner on guitars and backing vocals, Travis Laws on drums and JP Scott on bass (not available for concert, formerly of Over The Rhine) add a new and exciting dimension. On a number of songs McDonald soloed, singing without the benefit of playing guitar. This change allowed his focus to be on his vocals producing an emotional spike. With greater emotion and focus, his vocals became more soulful and pure. With a full and permanent band the sound was more dynamic. The band was tight displaying an occasional riff and change in cadence.

The set included:

  1. “Better Way” with McDonald soloing on vocals and the band highlighting a rap break in melody.
  2. “Eyes Forward” with great vocals and tight accompaniment.
  3. “Gravity”, here McDonald shared his story of writing the song in his college apartment, playing and perfecting the melody in the wee hours of the morning while having his next door neighbor rapping on the wall and commenting ‘Dude I like that song’!
  4. “Burning”, a new tune with the band giving a rocky, acoustic performance while McDonald sang solo. This is a song of faith and love with, ‘fire burning within my chest, and my heart will never rest’.
  5. “Mystery”, McDonald shared the story of writing this song while looking for inspiration sitting on a Pacific beach in Washington state and writing the song inspired by place and times. This tune displayed great harmony on refrain with good backing guitar.
  6. “Captivated” showed how tight the band has become with a rocking version of this hit.
  7. “Faithful” gave tight harmony with a country / folk sound.
  8. “All I Need”, heartfelt and solid.
  9. “Through It All”, performed for the first time live.
  10. “Beautiful”, a shining example of McDonalds ability to perform a song with high emotion.
  11. “Learning How To Lose”, co-written by McDonald along with Brian and Tofer Brown is a song not yet available on McDonald’s LPs.
  12. “What Are You Waiting For”, another new song.
  13. “Rise”, a great live rendition.
  14. “Closer”, performed as a slightly rockier version.

The night was highly personable due to the Cup Of Joy’s seating allowing the audience to be physically close to the performers. In each of the two sets McDonald and his band entertained as though you might be sitting at home on your couch with the band performing only for you and your family. While the Cup is well known for bringing the performer and the audience close, it is McDonald’s quiet energy and personable closeness which makes his concerts more memorable than most. Certainly, this was true on this night. 

Scott S Mertens


{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}