Wednesday, April 22, 2015

George Ezra at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Singer-songwriter George Ezra Barnett grew up in Hertford, England, where a youthful obsession with Bob Dylan's music prompted him to seek out the American folk and blues artists that influenced Dylan. His research helped him discover earlier artists like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Steepened in this passion, Barnett moved to Bristol in 2011 to study and prepare for a music career. Shortening his name to George Ezra, he issued EPs in 2013 and 2014, and rose to international prominence with his single "Budapest." Ezra's debut studio album, Wanted on Voyage, was released on January 27, 2015.

Concluding a 55-city tour at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, George Ezra sang and played acoustic guitar and was backed by a three-piece band. Ezra's 55-minute performance was a curiosity, in that it showed what happens when music rooted from a half century ago is adapted by a 22 year old. "Blame It On Me" and "Did You Hear the Rain?" hinted at the blues. A solo acoustic "Leaving It Up to You" and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" recalled old time folk tunes. On the bulk of his material, however, including the opening song, "Cassy'O," and the aforementioned "Budapest," Ezra's compositions were built on light, easy-going pop melodies and breezy arrangements that seemed to have little in common with roots music. Ezra shared whimsical anecdotes to introduce several songs, while his bass-baritone vocal range injected a sense of gravitas. All this chemistry has worked for Ed Sheeran and tonight it clicked for George Ezra as well.

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