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Jon DeRosa At The Troubadour, Thursday June 18th, 2015 Review

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Jon DeRosa

Dressed in a white suit, wearing a long beard and his black hair combed backward, Jon DeRosa moves precociously on stage and appears like a mellow guy with a deep and amazing voice that can serenade you soulful ballads as very few others can. He was opening the night at the Troubadour on Thursday night, surrounded by a full band (I counted 6 persons on stage) including a cellist and a vintage organ player, but DeRosa was looking very bright in his white suit, which was forming a white halo around him thanks to the stage lightning. ‘Black Halo’ is precisely the title of his new and second album and he gave us a tasty but too short sample of his new songs.

Before anything, Jon DeRosa is a singer with a very strong presence and a voice which surprisingly reminded me about musicians as diverse as Stephen Merritt and Roy Orbison. Now, he didn’t exactly have Merritt’s low baritone but there was something about his very-slowly-sprawling voice that evoked the voice of the Magnetic Fields’ frontman, in particular when he sang ‘Coyote’. But there should not be any surprise there knowing that another song of the album ‘When Daddy Took The Treehouse Down’ was co-written with Merritt. On the other side, DeRosa’s old-fashioned and sweet tenor during ‘Fool’s Razor’ had a delicious Orbison vibe, and I would say there was even some Morrissey in DeRosa’s croon, as it struck me during the romantic and hopeful ‘You’re Still Haunting Me’.

‘It’s half the battle when the first song is done’ he said after opening with ‘Coyotes’. All his songs were a rare beauty, seductive and meandrous, taking some sophisticated and surprising detours, embracing a sort of lost Americana with big skies in the desert and a romantic flair going almost south-of-the-border, without embracing any obvious genre. Although there were none on stage, the warmth and romanticism of Mexican trumpets were never too far, and the ambiance took a very tender and ethereal turn during the duo ‘Dancing in a Dream’, served by uplifting strings and keys.

There was a vintage and timeless nostalgia in most of the songs, reinforced by this light orchestration and female backup vocals constantly showcasing DeRosa’s confident baritone. But if the nostalgia was perceivable, it was done in a very personal way, combining uplifts like ‘You’re Still Haunting Me’ with expansive orchestration during ‘Knock Once’, or darker slow-sprawling numbers during ‘High & Lonely’, which he introduced as his favorite one on the record,  ‘it’s a very slow one, but it’s worth it’, he added. My guess is that, with such an ear for melodies, this black halo will not fade away soon.

Setlist
Coyotes
Fool’s Razor
Dancing in a Dream
You’re Still Haunting Me
Knock Once
High & Lonely

A few pictures here


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