Anderson East: The Blue-Eyed Soul You Need Right Now

IMG_6142It’s gonna to take a whole lot more to satisfy me after my first Anderson East concert. He tore up Nashville music cave The Basement on a Friday night, opening for Crescent City vixen Kristin Diable. Anderson led a rocking seven-piece band and horn section through a fiery seven-song set that had the classic soul attitude of James Carr, Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke, plus a touch of Ryan Adams tenderness.

I kicked myself for missing the last Nashville show. We met at the Basement nearly two months earlier. But I missed the Monday night set to prepare for three bio assignments, which I just completed.

The Tuesday after, I was in my friend’s truck on our way to Brown’s Diner with the windows rolled down, enjoying an unseasonably warm sunny day for January. Turning onto Grand Avenue, he said, “You need to hear this.” And I was hooked by the first retro notes of the opening organ of Anderson’s super-sweet love song “Only You.”

I asked my friend, “Who is this?”

“Anderson East,” he said.

My face met my hands. “I met him Saturday,” I said. Guilt washed over me as Anderson’s gravelly voice continued, reminding me of the Stax and Hi catalog I was raised on back home in Memphis. I felt like I let down family.

Later, I perused his tour schedule online, and it was stacked. Checking out an opening gig with Sturgill Simpson was out of the question. Those shows were sold out — everywhere (I had to book a trip to see Sturgill with the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks this summer). The next available date within a three-hour driving distance was on a Sunday night with Kristin in Knoxville, and I was determined to go until I heard about the March 6th show at The Basement.

I arrived 45 minutes early, anticipating a huge crowd. There were a few cars parked in the lot as the sonic boom of Anderson’s sound check reverberated in the night air. This is going to be good, I thought. I walked in and was surprised to find I was one of maybe five people there. After sound check, Anderson made his way over to say hello. I was standing next to Eamon McCloughlin from The Greencards and the two greeted each other like good friends. Then Anderson turned to me and asked, “How are you?”

“I’m fantastic,” I said. “Since we met, I’ve dug deep into your catalog and I have to tell you, you’ve made a new forever fan. I was going to drive to Knoxville on Sunday to see you play. Heck — I still might.”

“C’mon,” he smiled, “You’ll be the only one there!”

“I doubt that,” I said.

As I expected, the room packed quick. My new friend and honky-tonk guitar hero Eric Heatherly joined me at the column bar so I could take notes, which are the worst because I was too preoccupied singing and dancing.

The super sexy gospel number “Devil In Me” kicked off the show. “This is a song about fornicating with the preacher’s daughter,” Anderson said, “because we can all relate to that.”

After that, he kept the banter between songs to a minimum. Anderson had a very small window to melt faces before Kristin hit the stage, and there was another show after that.

The set rolled on with the first Anderson song I heard–“Only You,” which just so happens to be in the same key as my all-time favorite love song — James Carr’s “Loveable Girl.” “Quit You” had Anderson channeling Otis Redding. The rest of his show had the feverish spirit of a hot Sunday in a one-room Southern Gospel church. He broke it down with “Keep the Fire Burning” and “Lonely,” and brought it back up with the funky George JacksonRick Hall classic “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” and closer “Satisfy Me.”

Folks heading to South by Southwest will want to see Anderson Thursday, March 19, at Austin’s St. David’s Historic Sanctuary (301 E 8th St.). The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Music Badges, Platinum Badges, music fest wristbands and artist wristbands get you in.

If you get the chance, don’t miss him on tour with Kristin either. It might be the last time you see Anderson in a small club setting. He’s going to be huge.

His debut album Delilah, with producer Dave Cobb, lands July 17. “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, Forget ‘Em” and “Satisfy Me” are available now at iTunes.