2018-01-17 - Mr. Small's Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
I will start this review by saying that I have not had this much fun introducing people to a band since I was begging my Dead Head friends to join me for Phish shows back in the early 90’s. The sheer joy I get from watching someone experience this band live for the first time is unparalleled.
I spent the day travelling across the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and met two of my friends in the ‘Burgh. Neither of these long time musical adventuring cohorts had ever seen Spafford play live and I was thrilled to be a part of the experience with them.
Arriving at the venue, the size of the building struck me and I was getting more and more excited as we made our way through the frigged winter air… Up the stairs and into a massive, beautiful room! Mr. Smalls is a converted 1800’s church. The ceilings are high and with a capacity of around 800, there was plenty of space. Being a Wednesday show, I was anticipating a smaller show but the crowd filled out nicely as we got closer and closer to the zero hour.
We only caught the final pieces of opener, Goose’s set but it was enough to tell that the room was built for acoustics. This room sounded GOOD! Add to that the high ceilings and big, deep stage and we had a sure bet recipe for a real good time!
The room was filling up as the band came out to open the show. We made our way up to Red’s side and got a real sweet spot that sounded and looked perfect.
Slip and Squander was a beefy choice for an opener and Red really opened up on this one. As he wove his way through the opening sequence, it was INSTANTLY clear that the band planned on having fun tonight! Right away Brian became animated, bouncing his way through the jam… his energy was contagious. I looked around the room behind me and could tell that the audience was fully prepared to jump in the deep end with the band right out of the gates!
Ain’t That Wrong rocked HARD from start to finish. Cam set the groove perfectly and the band absolutely smashed it. Vocals were clear and tight and again, the band was all smiles and high energy throughout. It was about midway through this one that I turned around to see my buddies faces held wide-eyed and in complete amazement. As I panned the audience, I saw this look on many of the faces in the crowd.
As Red pounded out the opening to Todd’s Tots, the crowd (myself included) lit up and started shaking and swaying to what is always a fan favorite. Brian’s guitar work was perfect! Red left spaces and Brian filled them up with sweet, gooey playing as the two traded the spotlight.
It didn’t take long for the Pittsburgh crowd to take notice of what would be the first cover of the night. The band introduced Aaron Hagele, percussionist for opening band, [Goose](http://www.gooseband.us/[link text](link url)) as a guest for the tune. The opening jam of Longview was sweet and soft but gave enough indication that even those new to Spafford instantly recognized the tune. The place went OFF at the first big hit and continued to rage throughout the face melting jam that ensued. The lights took on a life of their own and they accented every peak and valley of this super fun tune. During the deep, spacey jam, Jordan took to dropping a few well placed bass bombs that really shook us deep!
All In? YUP! I love the energy of this tune. There is zero hesitation when they really nail it, it jams start to finish on a good night and this is a GOOD night! The crowd was fully engaged and the musical energy was oozing from the stage. I love seeing this as a first set closer. So much fun! The whole band killed it and even though I was Red side, I couldn’t help but notice how well Jordan and Cam were putting it down. Red and Brian traded licks seamlessly and were visibly enjoying every second of it!
That was it for Set 1…powerful and rocking, it left me a sweaty, beaten mess. We RAGED that first set open to close and the place was on fire as the crowd took some time to collect themselves. I had a chance to speak to many Nerds and I got the sense that many in the crowd had just experienced the full force of a new passion griping them tightly. So so many first timers that I talked with and all were blown away. My two companions were completely sold from the first note. No strangers to the scene, both commented on the technical prowess of the band, the musicianship, and the way they connect on the jams. And OMG! The lights! This room was incredible and sounded amazing but the LIGHTS! They lit that old church up magnificently and added greatly to the first set experience.
And now, on to the second set. I am not even sure that I can do this experience justice with pen and paper, but I will try. I was expecting a pretty standard second set without too many segues, as the first set had contained none. Boy was I wrong! NOTHING standard about it and one big sequence without a pause…absolutely incredible. Set break was only about 10 minutes long and when the opening notes of Weasel started, the flood gates opened, and the floor was an instant ball of energy. EVERYONE was moving and this old church was getting HOT! They took the jam in completely new directions and seamlessly transitioned into All My Friends. WHAT?!? Weasel into All My Friends?!? What is happening here? Are we being set up for a second set that could contend with the legends?
Yup…we were! AMF continued to build the energy in the room even though it was a short tease of the tune and I am pretty sure that I heard a collective gasp as it became clear that the band was on a mission. I have heard All My Friends>Bee Jam before (most recently over the New Year’s run). I am a big fan of this little match up. I think the songs play very well to each other and this pairing did not disappoint. I suggest tuning your ear to Red and hearing the ridiculous playing he does in this space. The transition back into Weasel was pure madness…smiles were everywhere but none brighter than those on the stage. The band was happy….like the REAL kind of happy. They had just sealed the deal for a room full of willing souls…Pittsburgh has seen the light and the light is filled with tasty jams.
The band returned for one more and the choice of My Sisters and Brothers made me so happy. I am always a fan of Red singing us on our way, and he crushes this song. Jordan and Cam were extra tight on this send off and Brian filled each gap with perfect tone.
This show had it all…complete rockers, soulful jams, and funky dance beats. I enjoy every Spafford show I see and this one was exceptionally good. My friends lost their minds and are All In and we all had a great time in what turned out to be a dance battle with about 300 of my closest friends!
Till next time… Keep killing it!
**All photos credited to Pat Bruener via showtheshow.com
Great review, @Philthy! I really like the way you captured the magical feeling these shows are having on a small but passionate and growing community of fans. This is a show that will be looked back on in a tour that will be looked back on.. the glory days!
Very impressed! Can't wait until next time :0)![0_1516684789243_FB_IMG_1516600494791.jpg](Uploading 100%)
Nice review. Looks like a cool room.