By Harriet Kaplan
Photograph by Victor Cisneros
On a sweltering night in Los Angeles, CA, John Paul White, one half of the Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars, performed at The Roxy. Dressed in an immaculate suit and tie, he never seemed to break into sweat during his compelling set. Singing in his breathtaking tenor voice, White performed all the new material from his upcoming album, Beulah, which is due for release on August 19. His first solo album in 10 years, Beulah has been characterized as “diverse collection of swampy southern rock, folk balladry and dark acoustic pop” with “new songs that explore emotional situations from many different vantage points — historical, spiritual, interpersonal” (Powers, NPR).
The bearded singer/songwriter from Muscle Shoals, AL, remained calm and cool during his well-received intimate show in front of devoted and dedicated fans who held him in high regard and admiration applauding after every song and seemed to hang on every word he spoke between numbers. It was during these moments, when White let his guard down and revealed his innermost thoughts, he said he was surprised the audience came out to hear him perform, especially since no one knows the brand new songs yet, and fully understood even if they were here “out of curiosity, he said he would that take it.” He also said the songs shoved him out the door of his home and he wanted to tour and play them for his fans.
Describing a back story behind a song, White spoke about his grandparents and the demons that drove them. White explained that his beloved grandfather, who in his mind, walked on water; he idolized him. But when his grandfather passed away when he was young, he wondered why his grandmother, who had 14 children, never cried and that story inspired “Don’t Cry.” During the set, White alternated between performing only acoustically (“The Martyr” which opened the show) and utilizing his diverse and accomplished full band on a number of other songs from Beulah. The Secret Sisters, also from Muscle Shoals, AL., featuring vocalists Laura and Lydia Rodgers, opened for White and later joined him onstage to harmonize with their pristine, soaring and angelic voices on “I’m Been Over This Before.”
Before launching into a few encores brought on by his cheering audience that wouldn’t let White go nor say goodnight too quickly or easily, he stood for a moment on the stage taking in the adulation and support. Then he performed a haunting and unforgettable cover of ELO’s “I Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.” The crowd was clearly moved by the raw emotion and vulnerable nature of the song. John Paul White’s long-awaited solo show was one that will remain strongly in the concertgoers mind and reside deeply inside of their hearts for a long time to come.
The Once and Future Queen
Make You Cry
Fight For You
Hope I Die
I’ve Been Over This Before
Hate The Way You Love Me
I’ll get Even
Can’t Get It Out Of My Head – ELO