Live Review: Kevin Griffin at Highline Ballroom


The Players: Kevin Griffin, vocals, guitar; Jenn Lowe, percussion.

Material: After forming alternative rock band Better Than Ezra in the late ’80s, founder Kevin Griffin and band had several hits in the ’90s and 2000s. Performing a solo show in support of his new release, All Together Now, Griffin not only debuted songs from his new offering but delved into his past repertoire. Sophisticated, intelligent and sometimes quirky, Griffin’s material is mainstream enough to have a broader appeal.

“Dollar Sign” is a clever anecdote about hollow love and materialism summed up in
the tag line: “Dollar sign, dollar sign—right where your heart should be.” In “Crazy Lucky,” Griffin describes stumbling on the “perfect love,” chalking it up to mere serendipity. The song’s musically memorable chorus hangs on the use of jumping a sixth up and repeating that pattern before the tag line pays off. “Juicy” highlights his signature falsetto while relying on a funky baseline rhythmically similar to the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” the song’s motif.

Musicianship: Griffin’s tenor voice has a nasal resonance, which is focused and effective. His well-honed falsetto, a sort of vocal insignia, lends real moxie to many of the songs and further pushes the envelope. His energetic guitar work stands up well to the vocals while Jenn Lowe’s percussion (on a wooden drum box) lends a warm and fuller sound to the arrangements.

Performance: To say Griffin took command
is an understatement. Seamlessly weaving the music and song setups, he had the crowd eating out of his hands early on. From off-handed remarks to Matthew McConaughey impressions, he was effortlessly engaging. Interacting with the crowd the way a comedian does, he played off certain audience members using them as fodder for his good-natured humor. A comprehensive set that ran a bit long but on balance it was a consummate performance.

Summary: Kevin Griffin is an impressive example of a musician and songwriter whose career has had its moments in the sun and continues to thrive without the benefit of superstardom. He churns out solid material while showcasing outstanding performing skills. Shortening the set slightly would make for an even more cohesive show. That aside, Griffin is an artist who could serve as a role model for many fellow and aspiring musicians.

– Ellen Woloshin