Sean McConnell [Concert Review] - Secondhand Smoke [Album Review]

I am fresh out of stones so I'll throw one post at two birds. Or something like that. I've wanted to review this album for a while and since I had the privilege of catching Sean McConnell open for a band Called NeedToBreath the other night, I decided to tack on a concert review.

I will admit I went specifically to see Sean and knew next to nothing about the headliner. My appreciation for Sean McConnell began in 2012 with the release of his album Midland.

The Fox Theater in Riverside, California is a nice venue with comfortable seating and ample leg room. One of those places that doesn’t offer a bad seat. Capacity is 1600, but  the space feels much more intimate than that. 

There is power in a talented singer/songwriter standing below the lights with only his guitar. McConnell wielded this power well.
The emotion and history of every lyric floated straight from the stage into the listening crowd. Despite the sold out show, I suspect very few attendees had any knowledge of McConnell beforehand. Still, he captured the room within the first verse.

With a jocular wit, McConnell engaged the crowd early and often during his short set. Playing entirely from the new album he showed off his songwriting, vocal range, and musicianship on the guitar and harmonica without ever wasting a minute of his time.

The title track on the album takes what most consider a negative term, Secondhand Smoke and puts a nostalgic spin that anyone who grew up around parents who smoke can appreciate. It is the kind of song that makes it impossible not to stir memories of childhood. The thirteen tracks of the album do much the same reaching back into the recesses of your brain and extracting tearful moments, the pangs of longing, the smile of good times, and the yearning of hope.

I have added a few of my favorites to
The Feels Spotify Playlist which you will find below. I encourage you to listen to them and the other tracks on this list all featured from previous blog posts. Then go out and purchase these songs, albums, and if possible attend live shows in your area. Nothing beats hearing a songwriter pour his heart out in person.

I would be amiss not to mention  the headliner. NEEDTOBREATH is a quasi-Christian rock band. I say quasi because while the lyrics were not always clear to me the songs did not seem overtly religious.

This tour is acoustic and the musicianship was solid. Band member played a variety of instruments and were tight and well organized throughout. The band relied heavily on harmonizing and the crowd rose to their feet and stayed that way until my departure.

What I did not feel was any genuine emotion. The band struck me as something between Mumford & Sons and Zac Brown and it all felt a little too tidy and polished for my liking. The production of lights and streamers garnered as much reaction as any perfectly harmonized lyric.

I have said it before and I will say it again ... Give me music with emotion over commotion any day of the week.


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