“Phillip Phillips in Niceto: Your Face is Familiar”
By Joaquín Vismara
Photos by Cecilia Salas
It has become commonplace to describe talent contests as meaningless factories, and their winners as puppets handled and shaped by whatever is popular in the industry at any given time. While this is true in most cases, this argument is difficult to apply to someone like Phillip Phillips. While he was the winner of the eleventh edition of American Idol at just 21 years old, Phillip has talent as a singer and guitarist, and has avoided the obvious clichés one would expect from an assembly line designed for making money. Or, judging by what we saw on his show in Niceto, he stays away from the stereotype imposed by this type of competition. And that says a lot.
Both during the show and the albums he released after his win, Phillip’s music has fallen somewhere between folk, a Dave Matthew’s style of fusion rock (a singer he emulates in his vocal registry) and a subtle flirtation with jazz. In his second visit to Buenos Aires, his approach did not stray far from this mix. “Get Up Get Down” showed the seductive play between Phillips’ acoustic guitar, the solid groove of drummer Jason Thomas, and bass player JJ Smith. Following almost without a break, “Lead On” was even more intense. Both songs dissolved into long jams full of virtuosity (the last one with Joel Behrman’s trombone through a wah-wah effect). It was 20 minutes into the show and they had only played two songs.
This would become the evening’s dynamic. After two verses, each song would transform into an extensive jam session in which Phillip would deftly strum his guitar and dance while his musicians showed off their talents. “Raging Fire” proposed a different sound, that of the grandiose folk patented by Mumford & Sons but without the epic baroque leanings. Later, the fast and unpronounceable phrasing of the verse of “Man on the Moon” became a quote from “Give it Away” from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it worked, since both songs share the same intricate time signatures.
“Digging in the Dirt” took us to a less frequented terrain. With a bluesy, slow motion feel, the song lead to something that was clear was imminent and inevitable, a drum solo. The solo slowly became “Thicket,” a ballad built around an almost metal style riff on Phillips’ acoustic guitar and where Phillips allowed himself to stray as much as possible from his script. The song ended with a jazzy jam lead by keyboardist Bobby Sparks’ furious Hammond.
“Home” on the other hand, abandoned all conceptual designs. The song that served as his coronation song in the US talent show is all about lighting up stadiums and anthemic choruses. Before he left, Phillips replaced his acoustic guitar with a Telecaster and the change was not only aesthetic. With an electric guitar in his hands, Phillips lead his band into “Fly,” a heavy, dirty, half-tempo rock tune, his voice turned into a scream, like a Jeff Buckley for the YouTube generation. It was the most intense moment of the night, but also the most isolated. At least, until he decides to pick up the electric guitar more often.
Thanks to Silencio.com.