Soulful Folk: The Wood Brothers at Carnegie Hall

On March 5, the Wood Brothers closed their 2016 Winter Tour to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Oliver Wood reminded the crowd that even though the show was in Zankel Hall, we were to refer to the venue as the world famous Carnegie Hall, which is where this smaller room resides. (He mentioned, “…because it sounds fancier.”) Eleven years ago to the date in Manhattan, the Wood Brothers picked their first notes to a live audience. The recording of that show would later debut as their first official release, Live at Tonic EP. The soulful folk-filled family reunion from that evening in 2005 planted the seed for numerous records, dozens of tours and thousands of die-hard fans waiting to have their spirits moved at the next gathering.

The band entered the front of the stage with percussionist Jano Rix on his homemade “shuitar” and opened with an instant fan favorite, “Never and Always,” off their new album Paradise. The trio took advantage of the amazing acoustics of the room and stayed standing for the next song “Atlas” which they also performed at their first show more than a decade before. Oliver delivered the lyrics, “It’s no accident I landed here, eyes wide open and seein’ clear, I have come a long, long way,” which couldn’t be more true on this milestone show. Time travel seemed to be the theme of the evening as they jumped from new tunes to old tunes and everything in between. Rix sat down at the drums for their third song, “Mary Anna,” and Oliver made sure the crowd knew it was a Saturday night party during “Snake Eyes,” another one from their freshest batch.

During band introductions, Oliver referred to Chris Wood as his “little dancing brother” followed by Chris playfully firing back, calling Oliver his “older, but not more mature brother, and he meant that in a good way.” Over the years, we have seen the brothers create a signature sound while simultaneously forming a stronger bond with each other. The on-stage family banter always adds a bit of comic relief before returning to their deep and thought-provoking lyrics. “Heartbreak Lullaby” cooled things down before Chris Wood made his lead vocal debut for “Pay Attention.” Oliver thanked the crowd for embracing yet another Paradise tune, “American Heartache” before Chris grabbed his stand-up bass for an eerie, tripped-out intro to “Who The Devil?”

The band brought out their “fourth member, Big Mic,” which is an old-fashioned, “time-machine” microphone utilized by the band to create an intimate sound or as Oliver calls it “O Wood Brother, Where Art Thou?” “The Muse” was the perfect piece for their sonic time portal which led to a blast from the past with “One More Day.” Even a tame, well behaved, Carnegie Hall-dressed audience was having difficulty staying in their red velvet seats during the quiet rendition of this classic, also performed live at Tonic, way back when. The Wood Brothers from the future returned as Chris pulled out his electric bass, which Oliver noted, “Some say it’s an abomination, I say it’s the bomb!” They got electric-funky right off the bat with their intro and jam during “Wastin’ My Mind” and “Singin’ to Strangers.”

Once again, the band went back in time with an emotional “Postcards From Hell,” which was dedicated to their light designer, Heather, on her last night with the band. After they wiped the tears from their faces, Chris slapped the bass for the memorable cover of “Express Yourself” to get the crowd wiggling in their seats again. The energy reached an all-time high as the crowd began standing up and shaking for the set ending “Honey Jar.”

Rix came out alone for the encore and played a beautiful intro to “Luckiest Man” on the keyboard before Chis and Oliver joined to send this jazzed-up version home. The crowd was encouraged to sing along and there wasn’t one person that didn’t know every word to one of their most played songs. Oliver kept the time-travel theme alive by closing out the encore with “When I Was Young,” a song soaked with memories from the past. In the small, dark space that is Zankel Hall, the crowd leapt to their feet to give the guys a well deserved standing ovation as we all looked ahead to a big and bright future for the Wood Brothers.

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