Material: Michael ONeill marries a perfect blend of rock and country with folk to create a sound that can best be described as “get together” music. The set, which showcased his latest album I Like It Like That from start to finish, followed up with a few older songs, was certainly more lively than the recorded versions. Onstage, ONeill’s songs were brought to life in a way that wasn’t captured on record, which is a shame given the live versions really speak to the singer’s energy and performance.
Musicianship: Now with five records under his belt, songs written with the likes of Bob Weir (the Grateful Dead) and Jason Scheff (Chicago), and his own indie record label, the music vet certainly has a solid grasp on his sound. While the polished end-product of his recorded versions don’t showcase the full vitality of the tunes, the live versions bring so much to them that they almost sound like entirely new songs.
Performance: Only artists with the same amount of experience as ONeill can have the same air of ease in their performances. Being on stage seems so natural to the singer/ songwriter that even on the barely-there stage of the Cinema Bar, he was able to come off as if he were commanding a much larger venue.
Given that his set was mostly his album from beginning to end, it isn’t clear if his sets are the right mix of highs and lows, or if he’s just very good at planning an album. But on this night, there was a wonderful give and take between his faster paced songs and ballads. It kept the energy in the venue high and even moved audience members to take the floor and dance.
Summary: Michael ONeill is an artist in full command of his music, something his live performance exemplifies. While it would be nice to see this performer and his band take on a larger venue to see if they can fill it in the same manner, there is no arguing that ONeill has an energy and ease that many strive for.
– Victoria Patneaude