Sam Cohen - Part of my reasoning for seeing Sam Cohen this evening was that I wanted to see a peer that was successful in their given profession. Not just on an artistic level but a professional level. Sam has written for the likes of Norah Jones, Shakira, the Banana Splits, and countless others. He has played with Bob Weir and was the musical director for the Last Waltz as well. His professional credits are just as lengthy as his musical and it isn’t often that an artist can straddle that line and continue to work consistently for the better part of 15 years.
Sam’s voce is distinct in the way he emphasizes certain vowels. The way he draws out his vowels, the ‘ahs’ and ‘ews’ reminds me a lot of a younger Bob Dylan or even better, Tom Petty. Most would call this psychedelic or psychedelia and I'm not sure that's really right. Sure there is a presence of haze, one that seems to linger especially when he leans on his effects but I would characterize as something that is definitely retro with breezy sixties flourishes, cool Americana. His guitar work is really something. The ease in which he plays is interesting. Usually those that play with heavy effects seem to have a very serious intensity; each bend, each, pull off looks painful. Slamming feet on pedals like putting out fires. It's not present here. The casualness as Sam goes from effect heavy riffs to clean is almost seamless.
The set starts bright, calm and the musicians don’t seem to be particularly worried about the very sparse attendance. It does not go unnoticed as Sam asks us all to text our friends to come down to the show. I can understand where the psychedelic comes from as the first two songs lean quite heavily on the keyboards. They are turned up and the hooks are emphasized. But as the set continues, the keys fall further into the background and there is an effort to really showcase Sam’s guitar work for the rest of the set. They play more of a supportive role, accenting those guitar lines with their own sort of haze; sustain and pads (though at some points I find it hard to distinguish the two). The bassist plays on a Hofner. It fits with the sixties vibe Sam is so often compared to. And it works well, really well. I often found myself singling out his playing. It complemented the complicated guitar pieces while maintaining the rhythm with the drums. Speaking of which, last night was the drummer, David’s birthday. Sam made it a point to say it several times during the set, so even though you probably won’t read this, happy birthday David. The set ends about forty minutes later. They close with a longer piece that allows Sam to really go wild on his guitar. His head rocks back and forth with the short, quick bursts of the bass and drums. I think I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t seen him get lost in a solo tonight.
Ultimately the set had this casualness that you don’t see too often. It’s kind of difficult to explain, like Sam and his band were okay with everything in front of them and everything that could come their way. Like, you want to go grab something to eat casual. It doesn’t really matter if we eat or not, everyone is okay with just relaxing but if we eat, that would be nice too. Everyone just seems really content with where they are and would be just as content with greasy food as they would with playing a marginally crowded club on a Wednesday night. It’s cool.