Delta Rae Winter Acoustic Tour: A Holiday Celebration
A LocalBozo.com Concert Review
The Cutting Room, New York, NY
December 2, 2015
Concert Review: Delta Rae at The Cutting Room
On a night when the world’s most famous Christmas tree was set to be illuminated for all to see, a holiday celebration of a different sort was happening less than a mile away. The Cutting Room, a New York City concert venue that’s both legendary and diminutive, would play host to a sold out holiday acoustic tour featuring Durham, North Carolina’s Delta Rae, as they sprinkle a handful of festive shows on the calendar before the end of the year. Though the show was a bit more toned down from the raucous foot-stomping affairs that we’re accustomed to experiencing from the band, the unplugged-style setting allowed the foursome’s tremendous singular voices to each take turns in control of the spotlight.
A sold out room would anxiously await the band’s arrival to center stage, where the addition of a drummer and string performer completed the six piece ensemble. The seated tables and waitress service surrounding the band was admittedly a slight distraction given the standing room party vibe that typically encompasses the complete Delta Rae experience, but their intimacy with the assembled crowd is what made such a unique tour so appealing, evident by the evening’s sell out. For 70 strong minutes, the group treated the evening like an episode of VH1 Storytellers with an array of anecdotes and quips- but ultimately, the performance was about allowing their songs to shine in a different light.
Promising to be a mixture of the band’s hits and some of their favorite cover tunes, the group seemed to lean heavily on holiday cheer, dipping into some church hymns and even a lovely Jewish folk song “Hayo, Haya” courtesy of Peter, Paul and Mary to balance out the evening. What’s best about catching Delta Rae live in any setting though is their collective ability to be so versatile from song to song. Often they’ll eschew the use of instruments altogether and stand as a quartet simply harmonizing in a cappella in front of one sole microphone- and in the case of their encore “Hey Hey Hey,” they didn’t even use microphones at all, allowing their strong voices to carry throughout the room and forcing the audience to listen closely.
But a Delta Rae show is all about having fun and it’s hard not to marvel at the group’s incredible talents as they each take turns sharing and stealing the audience’s full attention. Comprised of three siblings, Eric, Ian and Brittany Holljes, and longtime friend Elizabeth Hopkins, the range of each singer’s vocals is simply captivating as they work their way through their typically inspired set. The festive and upbeat “Run” would be a particularly appropriate opener- given the alternating tempos of songs that would follow. The laid back atmosphere played particularly well though for slower numbers- lead guitarist Ian’s particularly poignant B-side “Country House” for instance allowed the rest of the band to duck in the background with an array of backing vocals as he strummed through a solo version of a song he’d been inspired to write years earlier. Other catchy set-list staples like “Chasing Twisters” and “Bottom of the River” had much of the crowd, both seated and standing, clapping along in unison with the energetic foursome melodically intertwining throughout the night.
It was that same sentiment that led the audience through excellent and upbeat cuts like “Morning Comes” and “Dance in the Graveyard,” which are impossible not to sing along with if you know them at all. “If I loved You” has become the band’s de facto biggest hit to date and seeing Delta Rae parade through the song in person is really worth the price of admission alone. It is equal parts sad but upbeat, thought-provoking and catchy- and Hopkins absolutely kills the song with each passing performance in a way that encourages the entire crowd to sing at the top of their lungs- a definitive and expected highlight at any of the band’s shows. To close out the evening, the band welcomed opening duo Penny and Sparrow back out to the stage for a stirring rendition of James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind,” fitting not only because of the band’s hometown, but also given the intimacy of the setting. Though the entire evening was a different sort of show than we’re used to seeing from Delta Rae, in some ways the mixture of holiday spirit and fully acoustic performance was just the right concoction to fully showcase all of which the talented band is truly capable.
- Jane Van Arsdale