Last night, a couple of friends and I headed out to see the Heavy and Light tour, sponsored by To Write Love On Her Arms. The 16-city tour is spanning the states featuring a slew of well-known acoustic acts which vary throughout its duration.
We saw the stop in Nashville at the sold-out Cannery Ballroom, a medium-sized venue. When we arrived a little after the show began, an acoustic duo was on the stage. While I truthfully never figured out who they were, I believe it was Noah Gunderson. They performed well for their style, somewhat upbeat acoustic diddys. As their set continued, I quickly noticed how dead the room was. Though packed to capacity, there wasn’t much energy. I don’t believe this was the artist’s fault, however. A crowd of 1,000 may be too large for the stripped-down acoustic sound the tour features. More on that later.
Next up was Bryce Avary of The Rocket Summer fame. I wasn’t familiar with any of his music except for a couple of singles I heard on Radio U years ago. He practically did his entire set solo, which was, at times, quite impressive. Utilizing a sound looper, he constructed layered renditions of his own songs and some covers, even beat-boxing at times to add percussion. It was interesting and entertaining, but again it felt like it wasn’t quite enough to get the crowd going. By the end of his set, I remembered how much I enjoyed his voice, and I’d really like to see him again, either in a smaller setting or with a full-band.
Something unique I failed to mention is that during set changes, a variety of speakers addressed the audience. This may have been one of my favorite aspects of the show. To Write Love On Her Arms is an organization which encourages people who are struggling to seek help with their problems, whether it’s depression, addiction, anxiety, or any number of issues modern man seems to face. Throughout the evening, a former addict shared his story of redemption, a poet spun hopeful words, and one of the founders of To Write Love On Her Arms told the story behind their work. Because I believe music and meaning are closely related, I really enjoyed how the message and the music entwined, even if they stopped short of endorsing a Christ-centered community.
Aaron Gillespie, formerly of UnderOath, took the stage third. I was quite excited to see him live, as I loved the acoustic-based songs from “Southern Weather” by The Almost, his then side project. He played a solid set of originals and covers, punctuated by his strong, passionate voice. My personal favorite had to be “Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape” from UnderOath circa 2004. He sort of lost me with his Bruce Springsteen and U2 covers toward the end, but overall it was great to see him on stage again, even if he wasn’t behind the drums. Closing with “Amazing Because It Is,” an original borrowing lines from a classic hymn, Gillespie brought a certain reverence to the room. It was one of the best moments of the evening, in my opinion.
Lastly, the headliner Jon Foreman took the stage. While he gained notoriety as the front-man of Switchfoot, I think he is just as well-known for his solo releases and Fiction Family, a collaboration with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek. There’s no question that Foreman is a gifted songwriter and musician. Even performing solo, he got the room to come alive. Shortly into the set, the Fiction Family band joined him for the remainder of the show. I wasn’t personally familiar with the group or their songs, but simply having a full band on stage kept the energy high until the end. Watkins exhibited some impressive guitar leads, and Foreman’s sister, apparently a Nashville resident, joined him for a couple of tunes. For the final song, every artist from the tour came on stage, swaying back and forth, singing about love. It felt a little more hippie than I’m used to, but it was a nice touch. In case there was any question how much peace and love was in the room, the encore included “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young, a true classic.
Overall, it was a great tour with a solid lineup, hindered only by the large size of the venue. With a more intimate setting, I believe it could be an unforgettable evening. If you get a chance to see the Heavy and Light Tour in a smaller venue in your city, check it out and support a great cause in the process.