A review of the Aladdin Theater show in Portland, OR 10/19/03.
By Melody Alderman
There is a movement taking place in the music industry. After the over indulgence of untalented teen pop stars created by record executives, there is now an emergence of musicians (yes, musicians meaning artists who can actually sing, play an instrument and write a song without five co-writers), who are finding success through an old school grassroots approach. Howie Day is one of the movement's leaders.
Incredibly talented, Howie's voice has the power to both silence a crowd and to awaken them. With very little mainstream commercial success (as of yet anyways), Howie performed to a sold out crowd on a stage that has been previously inhabited by great artists such as Jeff Buckley, Indigo Girls, Norah Jones, Randy Newman, Paula Cole and many others. Oh yeah, it was also a porn theater in the 80's (as Howie referenced during his set).
It was astonishing how many people I spoke to at the show who had discovered Howie's music through a live show they found on the internet or a tape a friend had passed along to them. Not one person said they discovered Howie through seeing a video on MTV or hearing him on the radio. This is all part of an innovative, more authentic approach to marketing through street teams and allowing the taping of live shows with the agreement that fans never profit from trading the recordings. There were several mic trees set up throughout the venue.
Howie stepped onto the stage with a full band behind him. They played songs off the new record including "Perfect Time of Day" as well as older songs such as "Morning After." Midway through the show the band left the stage, leaving Howie to perform solo. This evoked rave cheers and applause from the filled to capacity crowd. This is what Howie is known for; his mixing pedal that allows him to loop different tracks in real time. He plays DJ, overlapping the tracks and interlaying vocals and sounds.
Howie performed the best version of "Sorry So Sorry" I have ever heard. It is difficult to decipher if this is because he was in fact in top form or if it was the result of seeing it being created in front of you. Either way, it sent shivers up and down the neck. Even Howie stood back with a pick dangling out of his mouth, bobbing his head to admire what he had just created as the loops played in unison.
Setting up the backbone of "Ghost" by creating a beat with his fist pounding against his guitar, Howie proceeded to set up all of the background tracks to the song, just as he does with many others. The result was an upsurge of emotional intensity that defied any boundaries built by one single person standing alone on the stage. Howie Day is a very rare exception in which one person can complete the entire musical experience single handedly. Towards the end of the song, the tempo sped up with samples of Howie's voice gliding along the track. He stepped away from the mic and began lip syncing while mixing and distorting his own voice. It was as impressive as it was entertaining.
"I haven't played this song in a while so if I stop halfway into it, it's because I'm scared. I don't even know what key to play it in. I was like twelve when I recorded it." The song Howie is referring to is "Disco" and he pulled it off with perfection.
Then the band joined him onstage again. Howie took a seat behind the keyboard, wiping his face with a towel (it was damn hot in that theater). "I used to have a fan right here. I don't know what happened to it." Just then, a girl towards the front yelled, "Your fan is right over here Howie!" He responded, "No, not that kind of fan. I mean an actual fan that like cools you off." But in reality, that is exactly what she was referring to. His small fan was sitting to the left of the stage right in front of the girl. Realizing this, Howie said, "Oh, okay. I gotcha. I'm really quick, right?"
Although Howie rarely smiles and seems incredibly comfortable in front of an audience (as he should with all of the years of touring experience he has under his belt), he made it known that he doesn't take himself too seriously. A person in front of him had brought a small camera into the venue. Howie asked if they wanted a really good picture and then tussled his hair until it looked like he had just gotten out of bed. Then bent down and made a crazy face. Nice to know he has a sense of humor about the whole rock star thing.
"Collide" was next. "We did the yelling song. Now we're going to do the pretty one. Guys, if you pretend you like the pretty one, I promise good things will happen for you tonight."
Howie declared, "This is one of my favorite shows we've done so far. Thank you so much." This crowd was incredible; attentive, singing along, ready to have fun, great energy. "I keep looking up at the balcony and expecting the two old guys from The Muppets to come out. Wouldn't that be cool? They just walk out, 'What's going on here? Some sort of rock show or something?' Next time I play here I'm going to try to arrange that."
After closing the set with a new version of "She Says" Howie and the band came out for one encore. "It's Your Secret" was one of the songs included in the encore. Unfortunately, the encore did not include any of Howie's incredible cover song collection. But, after two hours of original material that could rival most of his cover song choices, who really noticed anyways?
It's more wide awake
and dying then I'm used to
I thought we'd walk
these streets together
Now I'm hoping that I'll
never have to meet you
Step aside from all this anger
And somewhere in between
I can feel you"
Song * Ghost
Album * Australia
You make a first impression
I've found I'm scared to know
I'm always on your mind
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the stars refuse to shine
Out of the back you fall in time
I somehow find
You and I collide"
Song * Collide
Album * Stop All The World Now
I was staying up with you
way too late
I thought someone like you
Could come around
and make my faults
Seem like they were none at all
Come on somebody help me out
I'm underwater drowned in doubt
Song * Weightless
Album * Sound The Alarm