Tea Leaf Green
Charlotte, North Carolina
August 29, 2010
Charlotte was the fourth stop on a month of Southern shows for Tea Leaf Green. The band has been touring relentlessly all year both before and now in support of its latest studio offering, Looking West. This late August night showcased a more subdued show to the Queen City gathering.
Hailing from San Francisco, TLG is not so well known in the South. Hence, there were only 160 fans in attendance, a mostly older crowd that came out into the heat of the night for one reason: they wanted to see this band. The fact that TLG spends most of their time on the left coast or in the northeast means that Charlotteans do not have the opportunity to witness their live performance very often. As a result of this, changes to the band’s sound are made more apparent by the infrequent visits to our region.
For whatever the reason, the band seemed to be on autopilot and had trouble getting out of third gear and up to highway speed at times throughout the evening. Perhaps it was a by-product of extensive touring as Tea Leaf Green has averaged over 130 shows a year since 2002. It could have been that the rather small crowd played a part. One thing that their autopilot manner of operating did accomplish was that is served to offer more focus on the songs themselves; this strength of the quartet tends to get lost at times as fans push for faster and higher energy.
Over the past year TLG shows have become slower and more soulful and bluesy. Instead of just the blazing rock guitar solos, Josh Clark’s work has become more subtle and nuanced. The speed is still there but his maturation has yielded much more control over the tone and attack of the notes. This not to say he doesn’t still rock out, as he definitely did so in “Barnacle Betty.” Rather, he has simply added to his repertoire. Vocalist Trevor Garrod also seems to have gone through a maturation process in the past few years as his tone is deeper and more controlled, evidenced by his performance in “Arise.” The rhythm section of Reed Mathis (bass) and Scott Rager (drums) served ably on this night as they provided support for the guitar and piano. Reed spent more time leading the pace on this night than was the case when he first joined the band. The sound was excellent and handled nicely as the dynamics of the music ranged from smoking rock solos to soft jazz chords.
In spite of the overall sonically pleasing effort, there was almost no improvisational jamming. Rather, the songs stayed true to their composition and as a result, were shorter and more focused, a direction that may be met with mixed reviews, but is also evidence of a band that has done anything but grow stagnant.
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