Amos Lee
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
April 28

Philly-based songwriter Amos Lee displayed an out-of-this-world vocal ability at the Performing Arts Center, delivering an hour and a half of his phenomenal singing and humble personality, backed up by a solid seven-piece band.

“Truth,” an early highlight of the set, featured a great pedal steel solo from Andy Kennan. It was the first of many songs with a real stomp groove, somewhere in between gospel and funk, where Lee seemed most at home.

“Cup of Sorrow,” off his latest album Mission Bell, and “What’s Been Going On” (an older track) showed that for all the funk, gospel, and soul, there were elements of easy-listening, too. The drowsy mildness slowed the show down for a while. Lines like, “My heart is a flower/That blooms every hour,” on the new song, “Flower,” exposed the unfortunate disparity between Lee’s physical gifts and his often cheesy songwriting.

But even those tracks were served well by the band’s energy. The sound coming off the stage was pleasant and well-orchestrated. I wished that with all the talent, the musicians were allowed more opportunity to explore.

Several women with obvious crushes on the frontman made it known throughout the night, but Lee dealt with the flattering annoyance with humor and humility. When asked point blank if he was married, he mischievously replied, “Maybe … but it’s an open marriage.”

After Lee performed a few songs alone onstage, the band came back and played the strongest one of the night, “Street Corner Preacher,” with solos floating over a gospel-funk groove. It was the most rocking and satisfying moment of the set.

After cooling down for a few more songs, Lee brought everyone to their feet with his recent hit, “Windows Are Rolled Down,” a lighthearted, poppy tune that still accentuated his gifts and the band’s power.

The encore started with the weak “Learned a Lot.” It was like a phenomenal voice singing lyrics that didn’t seem to warrant the attention. But Lee redeemed himself with “Jesus,” another new song, which carried real emotional weight. “I’m going to sing a song I wrote the day my granddad passed on,” he said. “And I think I feel good about where he is today.” It felt like it could’ve been sung from the pulpit.

Forget that pop stuff. Lee and this band were born to play gospel.

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