Live Review: Rocky Votolato at Boston’s TT The Bear’s Place (5/22)


    Strength in numbers subsided to fervent energy at TT The Bear’s Place in Boston last night as Rocky Votolato serenaded his doting crowd of about 150 fans. Votolato started his set at 11:15 p.m., nearly a half hour past the slated time because of what was described as a dubstep show taking place next door at the Middle East night club. Even with the delay the concurrent show continued, and Votolato’s acoustic guitar and harmonica had trouble competing with the thumping bass pounding through the thin walls of the Middle East. Consequently, Votolato called an audible, grabbing an electric guitar to combat the noise. Of course, his fans were so transfixed by his mesmerizing performance that the interference made no difference either way.

    Larcenist opened the show, boasting a cello and violin player to go along with two acoustic guitars and a drummer. The Boston-based quintet’s sound was robust and well-layered. Each member sang various parts of songs individually, but the group thrived when employing the use of multiple harmonies. They closed an impressive set covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. While Larcenist proved to be an appropriate opener, CALLmeKAT utterly failed to resonate, as her unique brand of music didn’t translate to the crowd. Originally from Denmark, Katrine Ottosen is the one-woman show comprising CALLmeKAT, relying heavily on a drum synthesizer while also utilizing a keyboard and even a kazoo. She sounded like a bad imitation of Zooey Deschanel, although the kazoo was an enjoyable touch if only for its shock value (Plus, I haven’t seen a kazoo in a live setting since fourth grade music class. I digress.).

    Votolato re-established the energy drained from CALLmeKAT’s set and the previously mentioned delay by delivering a stellar performance. He built momentum early in the set playing favorites, “Portland is leaving” and “White Daisy Passing”. Votolato reached new heights during “Instrument”, but became cordially irritated by the event next door, and implored an electric for the remainder of the set.


    The infusion of the slightly distorted guitar actually improved the energy. Maybe he was competing with the noise from the other show. Maybe he was competing with the crowd, who felt compelled to aid him while emphatically singing the words to each song. Maybe he was competing with the insertion of an electric guitar which was clearly not originally part of the show. Or, maybe, he was competing with himself. Either way, the less than ideal environment made for an ideal show (if that makes any sense). The crowd lustfully sang in unison during “Makers”, “Suicide Medicine”, and “The light and the sound”. Conversely, fans appropriately resigned to observing as Votolato sang “Silver trees”.

    In his albums, Votolato often employees the backing of a band and multiple vocal tracks. Obviously, his solo live performances offer a different listening experience because of the trimmed down lineup. To call the live performances better than the album versions is an injustice to Votolato’s recordings. But the inspired show Votolato puts on channels a provocative energy which more than makes up for the advantages enjoyed in a studio setting. And the intimate venue and (improvised) inclusion of the electric guitar to go along with Votolato’s wide selection of pieces across his extensive catalog, made for a special evening. Couples embraced each other, bros appeared moved (and also embraced one another), and Votolato left the stage to multiple fans clamoring, “Boston loves you!”

    Yes. Yes it does.

    Little Spring
    Portland Is Leaving
    White Daisy Passing
    Tinfoil Hats
    Fools Gold
    The Night’s Disguise
    Suicide Medicine
    Every Red Cent
    I’ll Catch You
    Before You Were Born
    Lucky Clover Coin
    The Light and the Sound
    Uppers Aren’t Necessary
    Without Eyes Still Seeing
    Silver Trees