1/17/15 – Agganis Arena

Saturday night’s opener was about black tape.

George Ezra and band put on a humble opening set for Sam Smith with a slightly muted, yet warm performance—much like the effects created by the black tape that covered the sound holes of Ezra’s guitar. That evening, the two young blokes on the bill (Ezra, 21 and Smith, 22) nearly filled the massive stadium that is Agganis Arena.

From the visuals to the songs, Ezra’s set was low key. He swayed from side to side throughout the performance, occasionally sipping tea from an orange ceramic mug between songs. It was the kind of show you’d want to hear on a blustery day in the refuge of Brighton Music Hall, not one you’d want to share with thousands of your closest friends.

Nevertheless, Ezra and crew made do. Although the performance (his first in Boston) certainly needed some work—which will surely come with time and practice—he cleverly crafted the setlist. Beginning with an energetic “Cassy O’” to get the crowd moving and drawing out laughs with a fantastic introduction to “Blame It On Me,” Ezra quickly brought the audience over to his side.

“If any of you decide that after this performance you don’t like me, there’s a video on YouTube that you should check out,” he said. “Two seconds into the video, I get shit on by a bird and by the end I’m run over by a car. So if you don’t enjoy this, go to YouTube and you’ll find this song.”

With hit single “Budapest” as his second-to-last song, the crowd could sing along before an a capella intro to “Did You Hear The Rain?” rattled our chests. Especially here, Ezra showed off his deep vocal chords— an old man voice, in the words of some critics—that have landed him a slot on the “artists to watch” lists of MTV, Vevo, and iTunes. Each “Oh, why do you treat me so?” was big, but not belted. Slow and drawn out, the song felt like a gospel hymn.

That is, until it suddenly exploded into a collision of noisy guitar and percussion. It was like the band had suddenly ripped off a Band-Aid—or perhaps Ezra had torn the black tape off his guitar, finally letting its sound ring through the stadium—because the song lurched from zero to sixty in a single breath.

Though it was a strange ending for an artist hoping to win over the hearts of Sam Smith fans (and a reminder that the set had not been flawless), it’s likely that Bostonians will show up early to Hozier’s House of Blues show to see Ezra open. With a few more performances under his belt, hopefully his set will be a bit more polished.

Sway With Me: George Ezra
Pros
  • Songs that showed off deep voice
  • Well-crafted setlist
Cons
  • Banter was on the right track, just needed a bit more of it!
  • Similar songs put audience into a lull
6.8Overall Score

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