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Reviving the tour of his solo project, lead singer of Vulfpeck, Theo Katzman, played at the House of Blues in Boston on April 28 as a part of the “Be the Wheel” tour. Following the release of the album of the same name in March, Katzman has journeyed from coast to coast with a packed touring schedule.
Katzman took the stage in a candlelit procession. A hat from his new record label Ten Good Songs was perched atop his head, and an unbuttoned flannel revealed his chest. His emblematic clothes, like his music and his record label, declared his belief in the human spirit — an embroidered “I Believe” patch sprawled across the back of the flannel connected to a bright red embroidered heart.
In the darkness before his entrance, a recording of Katzman’s voice read a contemplative meditation on music in an increasingly digital world. The introduction to the show was likewise an introduction to Katzman’s new record label, during which he described the theme behind so many of Katzman’s songs.
“In a time of profound disconnection from nature, truth can be hard to find. But truth lives within us for we ourselves are nature and therefore we are truth. We seek to remind humanity of this truth by capturing the sound of our inborn emotional natural landscape using the processes and principles of high fidelity recording that created the timeless records that we all know and love,” the recorded message said. “Some people might call it old school. We call it, 10 good songs.”
From opening with “Be the Wheel” to an encore display of “That’s the Life,” this message was imbued in the music and highly technical performance displayed onstage. In the middle of “What Did You Mean (When You Said Love),” Katzman called for the music to stop. Someone in the audience had fainted. In perfect unison, and in the middle of a verse, the band ended the song. Fans got silent as the audience member was helped up and out of the crowd.
“That’s what we mean by love” called out someone in the crowd.
Katzman’s message of hope and human connection resonates with many of his fans. While his lyrics may speak of the power of human connection, desire for love, and the perseverance of nature, Katzman proves that he’s not all talk.
“Mostly, we take care of each other. Somebody faints in a concert? We try to see what’s up, we try to solve the problem,” Katzman said, affirming the interpretive comments coming from the crowd.
The transition back into the chorus of “What Did You Mean (When You Said Love)” was an improvised verse about Boston and loving one another. The seamless return to the music was emblematic of Katzman’s casual and lovable charm. Throughout the concert, Katzman spewed lyrical and instrumental improvisation, often at the same time. A signature of Katzman’s musical style, he sings along to his guitar solos, his high range falsetto emulsifying with the whining tone of his electric guitar.
Fans of Katzman’s work with Vulfpeck were ecstatic to see Vulfpeck bassist, Joe Dart, on stage. The chants of “Joe, Joe, Joe” permeated the performance anytime the bassist had a chance to show his chops. The Boston show was a homecoming for Dave Mackay on keyboard and Jordan Rose on drums, two Berklee College of Music alums.
For fans of technical guitar playing, Packy Lundholm may have stolen the show. Enveloping and soulful guitar solos from Lundholm exalted the concert to a level beyond most rock concerts. His solo at the end of “Plain Jane” closed out the show. Bowing to the impeccable shredding, Kazman threw his hat at Lundholm, who put it on without missing a beat.
Another surprisingly popular band member was a stagehand, lovingly called “Mr. Cheeks.” Seemingly popular among Theo Katzman tour fans, a long-bellowed “ch-e-e-e-ks” arose from the crowd anytime Mr. Cheeks came on stage to change Katzman’s guitars. This tradition, passed along to fans through concert videos and social media, is a testament to the community bonds formed around Katzman’s music — Something Katzman would be proud of:
“We were designed to be with each other. We were not designed to be looking at a phone trying to figure out whether we hate this person because they said some stupid stuff,” Katzman said while introducing “The Only Chance We Have.”
Following the final encore, the lights did not go out, nor did house music play to hurry people along. Instead, Katzman jumped down to the barrier to give hugs to fans in the front row and struck up conversations with them. This wasn’t the run of the mill high-five line. Katzman paused for extended conversations and signed shirts, posters, and records. He shook hands and gave hugs. At one point, instead of signing a hat, Katzman traded hats with a fan, giving away the very hat he wore on stage.
Not many artists write music with such a unifying message. Even less embody that message in their business and performance. Theo Katzman is the exception, maintaining a commitment to his message of optimistic human spirit across all of his endeavors.
—Staff writer Jacob R. Jimenez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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