Joshua James…hauntingly beautiful

It’s very daunting to start this blog knowing that I can’t do Joshua James justice with words. Wow. Here it is hours later. I’ve had dinner. I drove home in absolute silence trying to grasp the right words. And the words are still running around amok refusing to form together in a manner that portrays such an accurate glimpse of what I just witnessed. The show and the music is to good to go without mentioning, but I have to urge you if you get the chance experience it for yourself….

Before the show we had a lively conversation about the different types of genres and in particular about Emo. I’ve never got the whole “Emo” genre. Many have told me it’s about music being emotional, but as a good friend is quick to point out all music is emotional. I thought that too. Before tonight. Before Joshua James live. Now I’m not saying his music is Emo. Not even close. At the same time, in all of the concerts I’ve ever been to, which is a lot, I’ve never seen emotion like that.

Looking back at his music after the show it shouldn’t be surprising. Track after track you can hear the emotion lurking adding layers to his voice. And his words seem to cut through your skin, but you only notice once the flesh is laid open. No, the emotion is not lacking in the recordings by an means, in fact it’s what drew me to his show in the first place, but on stage James’ small frame literally vibrates as the emotions pour through him. His movements are not particularly graceful in fact at first they’re sharp and unclean, almost ferocious in nature. As the music builds he tends to creep lower away from the microphone and then with a swell in the music he rises …his body shaking as if to purify all the hurt and pain belting from the lyrics and occasionally he lets loose screaming/moaning with the music. No one in the audience moved in that first song or two. It’s as if we were all held…prisoners of the pure emotion and in truth a bit afraid.

They say there is a fine line between genius and the insane and I have to admit when I first started watching the show I felt like I was watching that line being crossed. You feel as if you get this rare glimpse into a songwriters life..that moment when they first put pen to paper, when they first pick up the guitar to form a song when the emotions driving the music are pure and raw. With James there is no holding back. He’s probably sang these same songs hundreds of times, but it feels as if he’s writing them from scratch right there on the stage. As if he experienced the pain, the hurt, the shame that he belts about moments before he stepped on stage.

Then as the song comes to an end he stills. Stepping up to the microphone he thanks the audience in such a kind friendly manner…a polar opposite from the raw emotion that shook his body. It’s shocking. And yet oddly refreshing at the same time. Within a few moments those same movements that were at first jarring become weirdly enduring. You can’t look away. You don’t want to look away. Hauntingly beautiful.

In addition to a jaw-dropping live show I want to note that the music itself is sick. The music was loud, but with a crispy quality that sounded like it was coming from a mastered copy and not live. Many bands live are loud, but this music sneaks up on you ebbing and flowing until you forget it’s not coming from inside, put is actually penetrating through whatever walls we each have. In addition, though I’ve focused on James all members of the band are insanely talented. The drummer plays the keys and the drums at the same time. The guitarist also keeps the rhythm going by joining in on the drums. And James has a tambourine hooked to a foot pedal at his feet as he strums and sings. Yet, it all comes together as one solid piece of art.

In conclusion: Let’s just say I thought that James played Saturday night in Omaha. A good two hour drive that I was set to make. Unfortunately I messed up the dates otherwise I’d be seeing him live again within 48 hours. I’m still searching for the words to place this within the comfort zone of what I’m use to seeing. It was the most haunting and the most beautiful live performance I have ever seen.  And in case there was any doubt….genius



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