A couple of months ago, the one and only Chip Adams turned me on to a Cali-based singer/songwriter/producer named Greg Laswell. It was an intimate performance in NYC that first tipped Mr. Adams off to Laswell's greatness, not just as a songwriter, but as a performer. I, on the other hand, while completely enamored with his debut album, Through Toledo, had never actually seen Laswell perform, so when I got word that he was coming to town, I marked that shit down on my calendar with the quickness.
Last night, this talented young songwriter took to the small Schubas stage shortly after 10pm. There were about 30 people (max) in the music room as he sat down behind his newly purchased keyboard (he told us he got it that day at GuitarCenter). I was surprised to see just one other musician on stage, as Through Toledo is an excellently produced offering, complete with lush string arrangements and thick sonic textures throughout.
Surprisingly however, the stripped down versions of his songs brought out another side of Laswell. Lyrically adept by any standard, his songs took on new life, as Greg's warming vocals rang loud and clear across the intimate room. Over the course of his 45 minute set, Laswell went back and forth between piano and guitar and ran through just about every song on Through Toledo, including the title track, "Amazed," "Do What I Can," "Come Undone" and his first single, "Sing, Theresa Says." He also tossed in a slow, piano-centric cover of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," somehow transforming the '80s girl power anthem into a serious, heartfelt tear-jerker.
Laswell is not just a great songwriter, he's a great performer. He is as comfortable on stage as anyone I've ever seen. He's charming, witty, funny, completely engaging and like Jesse Malin, is one of the FEW musicians who are just as entertaining while telling a story as they are while actually playing music.
His parter in crime left the stage while Laswell closed his set with the heartbreak-filled piano ballad "High And Low." About halfway though the song, there is a long pause followed by the words "I miss you." You could literally hear a pin drop in the room during this point in the song. The energy and emotion in Greg's voice makes it nearly impossible to be distracted by mundane rock club conversation.
He might not be the next uber indie cool kid super star, but Greg Laswell has the potential to really break into the main stream, as fans of David Grey, Gavin DeGraw, Rachael Yamagata, and other like minded musicians, would fall instantly in love if they were just given the opportunity to hear (and even more importantly) see him.
Check out my photo gallery below.