Live Review: Sean C. Kennedy

The 5 Spot  Nashville, TN

Contact: [email protected]

Web: seanckennedy.com

Players: Sean C. Kennedy, vocals, guitar; Robert Ricotta, drums

Material: According to his website, Sean C. Kennedy’s musical influences include Prince, Coldplay, and John Mayer. Fittingly, this intimate evening focused exclusively on laidback, emotive pop-rock. Personal without stumbling into maudlin territory, the Scot who calls Nashville home tugs on heartstrings with nothing more than a golden voice, a guitar, and a percussionist by his side. “Drive By Kisser” concerns an imaginary Japanese girlfriend and was subsequently inspired by the discovery of his popularity in the land of the rising sun. “Hurts to See You Go” is about…  does it need to be said? The balance of his catalog seems to fall into this hopeless romantic category.

Musicianship: Most impressive is Kennedy’s ability to engage audiences without a full band, a rare and valuable commodity. Robert Ricotta’s drumming strategically supports Kennedy’s talents. Using brushes instead of drumsticks helps keep the percussion understated. Although Kennedy never displays hyperkinetic strumming skills, every element of his sunset languor locks perfectly into place. When his playing does slip, the moment gets skillfully masked through subtle maneuvers. 

Performance: Kennedy delivers an understated show that matches his musical style. Though he offers little in terms of visual flair, this remains a savvy decision rather than a shortcoming. The message behind each tune and the intent baked into every note come through with unmatched clarity. Funky dancing or attention-grabbing stunts would only dilute the songs’ potency. 

   Additionally, he possesses better than average abilities when it comes to between-tune banter; engaging followers through gentle preambles transforms a scant 35-minute set into a grander presentation. During the final number, he elicited “oohs” from those in attendance.

Summary: Notably, the troubadour’s most recent release, 2020’s Let Life Love You, has racked up two million plays. Past collaborators include Nik Kershaw and Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor. He’s obviously generating ample attention without industry backing. Perhaps an even brighter spotlight would shine on Kennedy’s handsome mug if he boasted material that’s beyond the ordinary. As it stands, he’s a sizable talent transmitting tranquil, bittersweet tone poems the average listener will adore. 

Photo By Apple Kaufmann