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Review: Sam Cohen, White Denim at Crescent Ballroom

Sam Cohen

Last night’s show at Crescent Ballroom featured Sam Cohen and White Denim. This small lineup felt fitting and it seemed like the stage was made to be filled with all the vintage instruments and sounds.

“My name is Sam Cohen and these are the Sex Triangles.” If Cohen’s music didn’t steal your heart, his on-stage presence certainly did. With a voice that sounds similar to the style of Bob Dylan, Cohen and his band of geometric tom-foolers brought me back to the past with the use of entirely analog sounds and a barefoot keyboard player, among other things.

The group’s sound was captivating and though the crowd was still filtering in throughout the set, we were all appreciative of the danceable qualities to his music. Though a bit smaller stature-wise in comparison to others, Cohen brings a passion and energy to his music and performance that is nothing but infectious. His vocals were really what blew me away, along with his little dance moves that showed the concertgoers they were not the only ones enjoying themselves that night. During the last song, “Let The Mountain Come To You,” Cohen and co. carried out the close of the song and it ended up turning into quite a jam. So many solos, so many crowd shouts, so many smiles.

The first thing I became aware of when White Denim came onstage was the diversity of outfits worn by the group. Bass player Steve Terebecki had on jeans and a t-shirt, while guitar player and lead singer James Petralli was wearing jeans and a denim jacket. I was envious because  it’s a look I’ve often tried to rock myself but, for some reason, I can never manage actually leaving my house in such garb. Petralli wore it well though.

Outfits aside, the on-stage musical style stayed upon a much more common playing field. As soon as the first song began, the technical talent and proficiency of all the members became quite apparent. Not long into their set most of the members started dripping with sweat, certainly putting quite a bit into their performance, which was noticeable by everyone in the audience.

For myself, the highlight was watching multi-instrumentalist Mike St. Clair, whom I was standing right in front of. This fellow looks like he walked straight out of the ’70s, and his Rhodes playing was exceptional. Though rather restrained, there were a few points during the night when he would let out a hint of a smile — my heart fell every time. My favorite performance would have to be that of “It’s Him!” from the album D. After having listened to that recording so often, I was a little nervous about hearing it live, but my goodness they performed it well. Sam Cohen even came out to add to the performance and the guitar duo became a trio. It’s always a pleasure to see musicians on tour show up in each other’s performances.

Though their set became a bit too “Dad-Rock” for me at times, clearly these fellows have a real passion for performing, and a great talent for it too. It was an evening straight out of 1974 and I couldn’t have been happier.

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