Live Review: Bonomo at Joe's Pub in New York City

Material: Winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, Adam Bonomo’s brand of pop/folk/gospel songs, take you on a unique musical journey. A melting pot of genres and structurally atypical for pop numbers, his songs start out as catchy or ethereal offerings, pull you in, and just when you think you know where the song is going, it veers off in another direction. Though not your standard formulaic blueprint, his style of songwriting is teeming with finesse and unexpected chord changes. In “Water,” a lengthy intro sets the stage for an instrumentally centric piece, with the voice seeming to float inside the arrangement and an underlying rhythmic motif that propels the song forward. The feeling of water is almost palpable throughout, with the kickoff line to each chorus: You are like the water, followed by a metaphorical reference answering why. In “Home,” which closed the set, nostalgia and longing are expressed without sentimentality: Home it’s all that I want/my head can hang its hat/when trouble’s all I have/I’ll begin anew/.

Musicianship: Bonomo shines with his impressive piano chops and vocals that lay nicely in the mix. The band members contend with musical intricacies that might occasionally evade the listener, as they are at times subtle, but well-executed. The background vocals add texture and depth, blending well with Bonomo to form a coherent sound.

Performance: He opened the show with “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today,” by Randy Newman, immediately establishing a connection with the composer and setting the stage for something more sophisticated. The show was first-rate, with the only drawback being that songs periodically drifted into esoterica, though always musically satisfying.

Summary: Adam Bonomo is undoubtedly a gifted musician with exceptional songwriting talent. He marches to his own drummer; however, some shorter numbers to balance the extended pieces will go a long way toward keeping the audience thoroughly engaged, especially for those hearing the songs for the first time.

Contact: [email protected]

Web: bonomoband.com

Players: Adam Bonomo, piano, lead vocals; Julian Litwack, guitar; Gabe Otero, bass; Riccardo Belletta, drums; Kate Steinberg, backup vocals; Josiah Bassey, background vocals.