Written by Robert B. Johnson (@RobertSatellite on Twitter)
Jun 27, 2013 at 07:00 PM
ImageAn Exceptional Talent

To simply call Howie Day “talented” would be greatly understating his abilities. In fact, he may be the very best acoustic singer-songwriter in music today. He is the perfect blend of musician, combining superb vocal chops, stellar timing, top-notch guitar prowess, and phenomenal stage awareness. For his live set, his exceptional skill was on full display.

In the first song of the night, “Sorry, So Sorry,” Howie really opened up on the vocal licks. Notably, toward the end of the song, he dropped all guitar and sang the break of the song acapella. With his face a brighter shade of red, and the emotion already oozing from his lyrical performance, the crowd erupted in appreciation as he held a note for ten full seconds.

What’s particularly incredible is how well Howie compliments his singing with unique, astonishingly complex guitar riffs. Although highlighted on every song he played, his six-string skill really stood out on “Madrigal.” Lush with pull-offs and an elegant mixture of picking and strumming, Howie’s live rendition of “Madrigal” could have impressed even the most technical of guitarists.

A Special Charisma

As Howie performed, his presence and charisma could be felt throughout the crowd. When it came time to perform one of his new tracks, Howie stood before the crowd and jokingly asked, “ok, how does this song go?” With a smile on his face, Howie beamed at the audience as they encouraged him with claps and cheers.

ImageAt the beginning of the encore, Howie stopped suddenly during the first notes of “Be There.” In moment of levity, he exclaimed “now that I messed up, I have to start the whole show over.” He then proceeded to play the beginning of “Sorry, So Sorry” (the first song of the night) again. After a strong round of laughter throughout the venue, Howie took a drink of water and reset, perfectly performing “Be There” from start to finish.

Even in moments when Howie made mistakes, he remained composed and took it all in stride. In fact, those instances actually made the show feel more special. Howie’s unique ability to roll with the punches and maintain control, all while exuding confidence, really made his stage presence stand out.

The Reimagination of Songs

On his albums, most of Howie’s tracks have a full complement of instruments with exquisite production. However, when he performs live, he rarely runs with a complete band. Instead, he either plays alone, or with one other musician to provide an ambiance to the tracks. For his performance at Dosey Doe, Howie was accompanied only by a cellist (the very talented Ward Williams). As a result, Howie had to rely on his voice, acoustic guitar, and a very complex pedal / effects arrangement.

On songs like “Disco” and “Sorry, So Sorry,” Howie used his guitar to set a drum beat, stack several guitar lines, and accent his stellar lead vocals with thunderous layers that rained emotion throughout the venue.

ImageIt was with the song “Ghost” that Howie demonstrated his unparalleled musicianship. On the album Australia, “Ghost” is a somewhat basic track, characterized by an electronic drum beat, steady guitar chords, and subtle ebow. The live version was significantly different. With his astonishing pedal setup, Howie used perfect timing to to tap out, and loop, a drum track on the body of his guitar. He then looped various leads and sounds on the guitar to set the landscape of the track. Once he completed all accompanying instrumentation, he began the song. While many things about the performance stood out, it was the riveting emotion of his voice that was particularly distinct, again marking another significant departure from the subtle nature of the original studio recording.

Howie’s performance technique, which utilizes live sample boards, requires exact timing and perfect layering. Somehow, Howie nailed every beat, note, line, and riff, creating beautiful musical scenery for his songs all night long. In fact, at the one point in the evening Howie “messed up” (mentioned earlier), he really only stopped to get a drink of water. What was especially clear from Howie’s performance at Dosey Doe is that he has an especially complex musical mind, with a brilliant ability to reimagine his own songs.

The Future Ahead

For the past few years, Howie has been laying low. Aside from playing a few select shows here-and-there, and releasing the Ceasefire EP in 2011, Howie has stayed out of the limelight. However, that could all change soon. With performances of songs like “Medicine Ball” and “Favorite Song,” Howie showcased an impressive catalog of mature, catchy tracks that are begging for public consumption.

If you haven’t seen Howie Day live, stop what you’re doing right now and watch this!

Stay up to date with Howie Day by visiting his website, www.howieday.com

Sorry, So Sorry
She Says
No Longer What You Require
Medicine Ball
Favorite Song
Sunday Morning Song
Come Down In Time (Elton John)
Brace Yourself
Everyone Loves to Love a Lie

Be There
40 Hours

Contact Robert at robert@starsandsatellites.com