Nick Waterhouse with Hearing Things
October 10th, 2016 at The Sinclair
By: Nicole Piker
Nick Waterhouse brought his old R&B funk to the stage of the Sinclair in Boston on Columbus Day. There is something thrilling about seeing an artist live who can come on stage wearing a dark suit and jacket with dark rimmed glasses, dressed like an R&B artist straight out of the 1950’s with the confidence to match, as he pulled the mic stand towards himself. Although Nick Waterhouse and his backup band, The Tarots, were great to see live, I did feel a little bit let down by the turn out of the crowd. Although, in retrospect, his music is quite outside of the mainstream, so this is not unexpected. The unanimous vibe of the people surrounding me, joyfully swaying to the rhythm with a beer in hand, was that they were fully absorbed in the music. His calmness and cool composure was juxtaposed with the moodiness of the band, which consisted of a saxophonist, drummer, keyboardist, electric bassist, and backup vocalist/ tambourine player.
Walking into the Sinclair that night, I was surprised that the opening band, Hearing Things, started right on schedule. Despite their matching white suit jackets and their excitement to open for Nick Waterhouse in both Brooklyn and Boston, I wasn’t wowed by them at all. It was clear that they were skilled musicians who played their instruments well, but there was nothing original to set them apart from other bands trying to capture the same sound. One song that stood out was “Transit of Venus”. The saxophone had a sinister melody and some of the drumming was on the upbeat — yet there was still something off about it. “Hotel Prison,” a song about a haunted hotel the band once stayed at, was probably the best one they played and well received by the audience.
As the crowd grew, the stage lights were dimmed to a deep blue color, prompting The Tarots to come on stage. “Sleeping Pill,” one of his funk classics from his album Holly, kicked off the set with the combination of Nick Waterhouse’s R&B voice and the female backup singer adding dimension. Another song that stood out was “It’s Time;” it had a fun fast-paced rock and jazz that had the audience dancing and singing along. As the set continued, we heard solos from the sax, dancing from the backup singer, a drum solo, and even a guitar solo from Nick Waterhouse. He played a good mix of songs from all of his albums, Time’s All Gone, Holly, and his most recent, Never Twice. He waited to play “Ain’t There Something That Money Can’t Buy” until about halfway through his performance, at which point the audience was suitably excited. Not only did Nick Waterhouse kill his guitar solo and vocals in this song, but the entire band participated fully, singing and moving around the stage. It was truly a highpoint in the show. Although many of his songs like “The Old Place” and “Say I Wanna Know” were exceptionally great to see live and were even better than the recordings, some of his other songs did not have that extra “oomph” that I was hoping for. The majority sounded like nearly indistinguishable renditions of his song “Time’s All Gone” which can get very repetitive. To my disappointment he never played the most popular song from his new album Never Twice, “Katchi,” which he collaborated with Leon Bridges to make. Even so, the show was a success – Waterhouse captivated an audience that reflected all of the energy he brought to the stage.