The last time I saw Phillip Phillips in concert was a cool fall day in October 2014. At the time, I had no idea it would take almost two years until I was able to see Phillip play live again. That was in part due to Phillip taking some time off after some seriously heavy touring and some missed opportunities on my part. Thankfully, all that is in the past as Phillip is back on the road co-headlining a 40 dates tour across the U.S. with Matt Nathanson. Last Sunday, July 18, the tour brought Phillip and Matt to Seattle, WA, where they played to a sold out crowd on the beautiful Woodland Park Zoo grounds.
After a wonderful opening set by New York duo A Great Big world , the super talented Matt Nathanson took the stage and regaled us with an hour-long set full of hilarious banter and some amazing songs from his extensive catalogue. It was enough to win over not only the A Great Big World fans, but all the Phillip Phillips fans in attendance. This has to be one of the most fun lineups of any of Phillip’s tours.
After Matt’s set, it didn’t take long for Phillip to quietly and unassumingly take the stage. As usual, he greeted us and told us to have fun, and then launched into his set without many words. This would continue all night long, with Phillip letting the music do mostly all the talk (probably due to the limited time he had on stage). No matter, the music did talk and it was beautiful — Phillip has really become a master at directing the mood and energy of his set and therefore, of the audience. We literally hanged at his every note. And of the six shows I have seen of Phillip, this was without doubt the best, and that’s saying lot since last time I saw him in Seattle I was laughing in disbelief for most of the show — it was just so over the top great.
A few changes in the line up have taken place since: The wonderful Nate Mercereau has taken on electric guitar duties from Errol Cooney, and Seattle’s own Andrew Vait filled in on keys for Bobby Sparks. Though the flavour has changed somewhat with these changes, the essence remains intact: a display of extraordinary musicianship and music making — it’s just such a pleasure to see the joy of Phillip and his band find new twists and turns among the songs and test new jams and solos on the mostly unsuspecting audience. At the heart of this display are the songs, so many beloved melodies and lyrics, a testament to the solidity of Phillip’s songwriting. Indeed, the songs are never lost amidst all the jamming, they are only enriched by it and their boundaries explored and pushed to find new inspired musical landscapes.
Of the new additions, Nate Mercereau on electric guitar is the perfect complement for Phillip, allowing him to explore his rock side even more. Nate can no only deliver the ripping solos, but provide a delicate, moving accompaniment on a quiet song such as “Fool for You.” Andrew Vait, a gifted guitarist and keyboard player, is also great and really fun to watch. As always, JJ Smith on bass quietly killed it all night and kept the heavy groove going together with Jason “JT” Thomas on drums. Finally, on Sunday night Joel Behrman on trumpet added a delicious touch of funkiness to the whole mix, specially on “Don’t Tell Me,” one of a handful of new songs that Phillip has introduced this tour. From Phillip to Behrman, the whole band just shone in this song.
As he has been doing for the entire tour, Phillip played electric guitar on several songs. Of these, the still unreleased “Magnetic” was the most powerful and beautiful. Though it’s been only a few weeks since he debuted “Magnetic” live, the song has already found its groove, going from a simple, sparse first verse into a big, grandiose chorus and only mounting in intensity with each verse. Not only are the lyrics of the song sexy, the song is musically sexy, a musical explosion of sex and sensuous love. And as he has done during many of the shows, Phillip taught us the background vocals at the beginning of the song and then urged us to keep singing throughout. It was the best moment of the night.
Other stand out moments were a back to back performance of two more rarely played songs, the bittersweet “Searchlight” and one of my dream set list songs, “Don’t Trust Me,” a fast paced, soulful bonus track at the end of Behind the Light. As I have done a million of times alone with my phone, I sang along to every word in total ecstasy. And so did the whole crowd during “Raging Fire,” “Gone Gone Gone,” and “Home.” In fact, the whole night was an ode to summer night concerts and magical sing-alongs, with Phillip asking us to sing with him on many of the songs. The show, which was all ages, brought together a perfect mix of families with young children, picnicking couples and friends, and music lovers of all ages and backgrounds. It was clear by looking around me that Phillip gained quite a few new fans that night, including a young mom whose kids had convinced her to stay for a couple of songs but who ended up staying for the whole show.
Due to the nature of the co-headlining tour, Phillip’s set was just over an hour long, but by the time he closed with “Fly” he had left everything on the stage, finishing the show almost in full metal mode, a paroxysm of lights and cheers coming from both the stage and the crowd. At the end of the show, the warm summer evening had turned into night, the full moon shining on us as we left the field. It could not have been a more fitting end to an already spectacular night.
Phillip Phillips co-headlining summer tour continues tonight in California at the beautiful Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. Don’t wait to see Phillip and company, get your tickets now!
Check out the set list, full show audio and a cool video of new song “Don’t Tell Me,” below!
Don’t Trust Me
Get Up Get Down
Gone Gone Gone
Don’t Tell me
Fool For You