7/11/14 – Cafe 939

“Don’t embarrass me!” shouted a member of the crowd over applause as Hillary Reynolds Band took the stage at a packed Café 939. After a false start, Reynolds laughed and admitted that she had just gotten a new keyboard. “Go home, Hillary—you’re drunk!” another crowd member yelled.

Somewhat of a homecoming for the group, HRB, a five-piece folk-pop/rock group led by keyboardist and vocalist Hillary Reynolds, coalesced at Berklee College of Music. Their tough-love college buddies had clearly come out to have some fun on their home court.

As HRB settled into the music, the power and range of Reynolds’ voice was immediately apparent. Cellist Trevor Jarvis augmented Reynolds’ vocals with tight harmonies and explained to the audience between songs that he used to play in a metal band. “I think they’re all here tonight,” he said with a smile.

Many of HRB’s tunes carry familiar themes, ones of love lost, innocence, perseverance, and an optimism as delicate as an eggshell. In “Crossing the Line,” the single off of their recently released third studio album The Miles Before Us, Reynolds sings, “I know we’re crossing the line / but I don’t wanna fall asleep alone tonight.” As beautifully and clearly as they are delivered—perfect for dwelling on the one that got away—Reynolds’ lovesick lyrics become monotonous listening to more than a few songs in a row.

 

Luckily, HRB introduced variety in other ways on stage, such as employing an arsenal of instruments and sounds throughout the set: piano and synths, cello, mandolin, acoustic and electric bass, and acoustic and electric guitar. To the delight of the crowd, guitarist Connor Reese plugged in his pedal steel guitar on “Can’t Let You Go,” a waltz-time ballad that places listeners somewhere in the middle of a bone-dry prairie. Reese sat, bent over his steel pedal guitar, sliding the tone bar over the strings with the concentration of a boy assembling a model airplane.

Now with the full attention of the audience, Reynolds got the crowd snapping and clapping along to tunes like “Whiskey in Winter” and “Balloon and Kite,” a song about a balloon and a kite falling in love, she said playfully.

A bubbly, polka-dot-skirt-wearing Reynolds seemed giddy to be playing in front of friends and family. So giddy, in fact, that nearing the end of the set Reynolds announced to the crowd that she wanted to hug everyone, adding, “Even though I’m really gross right now.”

When the final tune came to an end and the band walked off stage, the audience’s applause progressed into a chant for more. After a one-song encore, a sweaty Reynolds stuck around to realize her wish from earlier in the set, doling out hugs to friends and fans who eagerly waited their turn.

Hugs for Everyone: Hillary Reynolds Band
Pros
  • Tight, powerful vocal harmonies
  • Impressive arsenal of instruments used throughout set
  • Fun banter between crowd and Berklee-formed band
Cons
  • Lyrics/subject matter became monotonous
8Overall Score

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