Review by Chris LaCroix | Photos by Badon Hill Group
I was asked to cover Ron Pope a few days before the actual show. I had no real knowledge of who he was or what he sounded like, so I did my due diligence. I listened to a smattering of songs, watched a few interviews, and took in his latest music video for the single, “My Wildest Dreams”. The picture I put together was that of the male singer/songwriter strumming his guitar and making Midwest moms, Instagram crafters, and those artists waiting for their big break feel tiny rays of hope.
During the show, he sang with his eyes closed and did a really good job of belting out poetic songs of longing. And to my surprise there was a horn section, drummer, a second guitarist, and a slew of awaiting instruments: fiddle, stand-up bass, accordion, trumpet, tenor sax, organs. The first song worked in a few lines from “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers and finished with a nod to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. There were big electric riffs, splashes of trumpet, and everyone on stage was moving around, smiling and jiving. Something was awry.
There was a moment when I wasn’t sure if I had been listening to the same Ron Pope before the show - if there were in fact two Ron Popes and one had really wanted to be in the Blues Brothers band. And, in fact, there are two Ron Popes: the one I encountered through his previous recordings; and this new one who has a brand new daughter, and, apparently, a whole new outlook on the world.
Parts of the Ron Pope’s press release prior to the show, hinted at a new sound and told about how Pope had pushed aside an album’s worth of material before coming out with Bone Structure, which releases on March 6. It was not made clear what a jubilant and vivacious turn was made. The evening shifted between Chicago-, Piedmont-, and Delta-Blues; new songs, old songs, and some very interesting covers: Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, a fiddle and acoustic guitar version of Pope’s “Our Song”, and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. And, in a marked shift from nearly every other show I’ve seen in Seattle, everyone in the audience was smiling, dancing, and happy.
It was a far more dynamic performance than I had anticipated. The capsule label for the vibe could be “Dad Rock”, and with Pope being a new dad, this makes sense. The set seemed to be a batch of songs that would show up on a record player on a sunny day with your own dad saying, “Oh, this is a good one!” It is very obvious that something shifted in Pope with the birth of his daughter. He seems to be happy.
Happy and likable. This is how I walked away from the night, and I think everyone else in the room felt the same way. Not to mention that Pope and his band put on a nearly two-hour show on a Monday in January, in Seattle.