My 2018 live music New Year’s resolution continued on Friday, (Jan. 19th), when I had the opportunity to see John Baumann live at The Blue Door, a great little listening room in Oklahoma City. I reviewed a Jason Eady show there last April, and I was excited to return to the venue.
I hadn’t known beforehand that this would be an acoustic show, but in a room like this, and with songwriting like that of Baumann, this turned out to be a very welcome thing. It became a really cool, intimate performance. Some of his songs are actually even better suited for this type of show. “Turquoise,” for example, already a highlight of his latest record Proving Grounds, actually sounded better stripped back with just the vocals and acoustic guitars. It takes a certain caliber of songwriting to be able to pull off this type of thing without it becoming “samey,” and John Baumann’s certainly qualifies.
But it wasn’t all the slow, thoughtful numbers you might expect from a show like this. There were nice lighter moments in songs like ‘bible Belt,” a story of growing up in the South and the first song Baumann says he felt like they wrote, and “Holding it Down,” a fun ode to Texas that he remarked should have been taken off the set list for a show in Oklahoma. There were also many breaks for humorous stories, like the inevitable butchering of his last name by concert promoters and his band’s fondness for puzzles. That ability to engage with the audience is great in any live setting, but it especially works at The Blue Door and listening rooms like it because in a small, intimate setting like this, it’s like John Baumann’s just gotten out his guitar and started performing in your living room. And why wouldn’t the guy performing informally in your living room take some breaks to talk about puzzles and Farkle?
I’ve seen two very different shows in two very different settings so far this year, and each one offered unique things to appreciate about live music. I’m only two into what will hopefully be at least twelve shows this year, but I’m already finding a deeper appreciation for the art of live music from these artists. Thanks, John Baumann, for another great live show to add to my 2018 concert series.
Best Live Acoustic Songs: “Turquoise,” “Here I Come,” “Bible Belt,” “Midland”