On Sept. 21, Kevin Morby played a sold-out show at the Teragram Ballroom.
The stage was dark, with hollers coming from the crowd in anticipation; a Nina Simone hit, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” played in the background until finally, one by one, the band emerged. The stage was brought to life and clad in a suit made of musical notes, Kevin Morby was the last to enter.
From most recent album City Music, interlude “Flannery” began. Coming from Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away, we heard at its very end, “that’s the city we’re coming to, that’s the glow from the city lights.” This finishing line transitioned into “City Music,” a song that manifested this same “glow.”
The song began with its inspiring riff, one you couldn’t forget because of its uplifting tone. This track had many moments of softness but was quick to evolve into intense jam sessions, with distorted mic delays coming from Morby. With lyrical simplicity, there were only five lines repeated throughout the song. Though repetitious, don’t let this fool you on the quality of the writing. “Oh, how you pull at my heartstrings” and “Oh, how you make my heart beat,” are up to your own interpretation, but show the lamentation of how beautiful and impactful a city can truly be.
As the set-list progressed throughout the night, it became increasingly clear how insane this backing band was. Consisting of Cyrus Gengras on bass, Nick Kinsey on drums, and Meg Duffy on guitar, keys and backing vocals, I was particularly drawn to Duffy’s incredible playing. I want to note how women like Duffy are the role-models young girls need in music.
Song “1234” was a favorite amongst the crowd and sparked some energy in all of us. The song had a punk feel, along with a country-like twang to it. Though short and succinct, it ended strongly, promptly going into “Harlem River” off album Harlem River. A vivid song with vivid imagery, I could feel just how honest of a performer Morby is.
Morby had a sense of kindness and charisma to him that I feel is hard to find and portray in performing; he is successful in doing this and shows it in song, “Destroyer.” Moving to the piano, I was given the impression of Elvis. With Duffy’s slide guitar and Kinsey’s eighth notes played on the ride, there was a classic vibe in the air with a white light resting upon Morby, illuminating his body and making his suit vibrant in the light.
Another favorite, “Parade” began but not before Morby could show his sincerest respect to all of us in the audience, “Thank you for filling up this beautiful room.”
As I sat on the balcony of the Teragram Ballroom, I was overwhelmed with lyric “may you find out who you are.” I sat there and closed my eyes and explored this concept of finding out who I am. Parade takes you on a journey, where you wonder this question, from the very start to the very finish of the song.
Morby was the poetic embodiment of soul explored through song. His songs are contemplative and thought-provoking, and do what they do best: incite emotion and a particular "glow" in ourselves when we hear his music. Morby has just finished his tour and I have to say, I was lucky to have experienced it.
Text by Whitney Levine | Photos by Noah Kentis
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