Album Review: Amos Lee – Live at Red Rocks With The Colorado Symphony
His humble beginning playing gigs and open-mic nights in small clubs and bars must seem a lifetime away for American singer/songwriter Amos Lee, who has just dropped his first live album Live At Red Rocks With The Colorado Symphony. Since releasing his self-titled debut in 2004, Lee has steadily been amassing more and more attention and acclaim, directed at a stunning collection of, including his most recent effort Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song in 2013, as well as 2008’s Mission Bell, which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200. This one night only performance is not only a symbol of Lee’s versatile songwriting, arresting stage presence and growing success, but is also testament to the artistry of his band, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra itself and the direction of conductor Scott O’Neil. Live At Red Rocks With The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is a spirited record of pieces of his entire discography, brought to life through an exciting and very special collaboration.
Opening with single Windows Are Rolled Down, the energy from both the crowd and the stage, full of musicians, is palpable and already goosebump-inducing, as the sweeping strings take this soaring folk track to even greater heights before Lee enters with his distinctive soulful voice. From here Lee traverses a musical soundscape, with the help from an astonishingly in sync band and talented orchestra in tow, leading the crowd through myriad musical and emotional instants.
The pizzicato strings on Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight played against Lee’s velvet-soft voice is perfectly emblematic of the track’s title, rollicking through moments of nostalgia and while always looking forward. The beautiful, restrained opening of El Camino benefits even more from the patient and eventual addition of the orchestra as the track’s Latin-inspired harmonies are highlighted by a lone horn section, and then sweeping strings. The mournful vocal harmonies of Violins are heavenly, while moments of horn-based accompaniment of Colors bolsters Lee’s masterful falsetto, before Tricksters, Hucksters, And Scamps delivers an element of swashbuckling fun as a thumping tuba takes centre stage with fluttering strings. At the other end of his musical spectrum is the sultry balladry of Won’t Let Me Go, a slow R&B jam whose passion is sustained by romantic strings, and whose sensuality is augmented by guitar and keys.
Street Corner Preacher swelters with both attitude and eeriness, exuding the swagger of a Led Zeppelin orchestral arrangement, before stunning ballad Black River and its sliding dissonant strings gently plays us into soulful closer Arms Of A Woman.
Live At Red Rocks With The Colorado Symphony allows us to bear witness to the affect these musicians have on their audience, and is an incredibly memorable listen, adding something special to your own personal experience of Lee’s impeccable live offerings. Not only is his own performance near pitch perfect and incredibly musical, Lee’s engagement with his colleague’s and their audience is energising and confident without pretence. He leads 100 plus musicians with ease and humility, creating a sincerely joyous and striking performance that is beautifully captured in this album.