–by Laura Tucker
On Sunday night, The Old Rock House downtown hosted American Authors and Billy Raffoul. Inside this historic venue with exposed brick, wrought iron and copper ceilings, there’s an upper balcony with a view of the stage but the amount of tables and seating along with a lounge and bar upstairs was an unexpected bonus.
There are also a few sofas about that give it a warm coffeehouse feel. And much to my delight, the walls are lined with paintings of artists who have performed there. (the work of artist Dana Richard Smith.) So it is essentially an art gallery to boot. And there’s not a bad seat in the house. The bar is only open for shows but this vibe makes me want to return.
With a velvet, fuchsia curtain and light saber-like lamps, the stage is set for the first performance by Canadian, Billy Raffoul. With an unmistakable raspy voice that was only bestowed on a rare few, the singer/songwriter and guitarist started the set with “You Be Love”. Soulfully delivering an intimate performance that juxtaposed the vibe of the American Authors, he commanded the attention of the audience with a sweet, soothing and at times, downright hilarious demeanor. Between songs he address the crowd with dry humor sprinkled with gratitude and just came across as extremely genuine.
I had a chance to chat with Billy for a minute and asked how he ended up on tour with the American Authors given the difference in the feel of the music. He told me that he and Zac Barnett have a good friend in common who introduced them on a trip to Alaska. They collaborated on “Say Amen” and the rest is, well you know.
Joining him on stage was Justin Zucatto on guitar and bass. The two of them proved that you don’t have to be loud to be amazing. Billy Raffoul is one of those artists that makes you want just hit play and let it go. I have already added him to my favorites. You can find him on Spotify, Apple Music and You Tube.
And now, the headliners. American Authors are out and about for the first time in three years on the Best Night of My Life tour drawing true fans of all ages including some parents who brought their kids out to get up close to their favorite band. I spoke to a dad and daughter who came all the way from Springfield. The tween, in her freshly-purchased tour sweatshirt, was planning to get it signed by the band. This is, without a doubt, one of the best parts of a smaller venue. It always feels so personal.
At 9:00, the band came out and was greeted with rousing adulation. The energy was reminiscent of Andy Grammar. Just pure joy! You could not possibly be in a bad mood at this show. With huge smiles on their faces, they got right to it, delivering full-bodied sound with an upbeat attitude. It was clear that they bring the party wherever they go.
There is something about this positivity that is most likely attributed to their success of the “The Best Day of My Life.” The song that has been commercial gold and can be heard representing brands from Lay’s to Lowe’s, and also appears in movies, television shows, sporting events, and even on video games. Incidentally, that song was also nominated for Best Road trip Song in 2014.
But they are not one-hit wonders. They started the night with “Believer”. Another positively popular song. American Authors consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Barnett, bassist Dave Rublin, drummer Matt Sanchez and James Adam Shelley on banjo. They are clearly writing their own story with a positive pen.
The next song was a cover of “Mr Brightside” by the Killers. I mean, it is pretty fitting for these guys. And they did it proud.
The rest of the show was just one happy tune after another until “Deep Water” brought out a more serious note and the harmonies of a church choir. They also invited Billy and Justin back to the stage for “Say Amen.” and later, the whole band actually came into the crowd for “Pocket Full of Gold.” The audience ate it up, surrounding them and singing along.
Saving “Best Day of My Life” for last, Zac joked that they could go outside and stand in the cold for 45 seconds and do an encore or they could just get right to it, and that’s what they did.
American Authors simply delivered a high-energy, feel-good performance with an abundance of audience participation. If you get a chance to see them live, you won’t be disappointed.
Check out the full gallery below the setlist.
Billy Raffoul setlist:
You be love
I see you
I’m not a saint
We could get High
The Old Rock House, originally constructed in 1818 as a fur trade center. Click the link to learn more.