It pretty much goes without saying that finding out about Vulfpeck was one of the best things that could have happened in my musical lifetime, but equally as great would be to realize that Theo Katzman – singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist – has a healthy solo career that just keeps getting better and better. Fresh off the March release of Be The Wheel, Katzman has embarked on an extensive tour spanning across the US, Canada and Europe. From my past experience, Theo’s show aren’t ones to be missed, so I jumped at the chance to see him at Terminal 5 and experience firsthand how his performance has evolved since I last saw him a few years ago.
Kicking the night off, opening act May Erlewine took to the stage alongside guitarist Packy Lundholm to a roaring crowd, eager to hear the first opening notes. Erlewine’s vocals enveloped the room and was wholly successful in making the show as intimate as T5 could ever become. Lundholm’s guitar accompaniment bookended the performance, weaving in and out adding layers to the already impossibly beautiful performance. May told the story of how she came to meet Theo and ultimately join this tour – his warmth and friendly nature and willing to be a helping hand in whatever capacity. The fondness in which she spoke about him was undoubtedly echoed by every single person in that room. The entirety of their set felt like a giant hug – a perfect contrast to the rainy weather just outside the doors.
After a brief changeover, one by one, the band trotted out onstage to more thunderous applause. Packy pulling double duty, Theo’s fellow Vulfpeck member Joe Dart on bass, Jordan Rose on drums, Dave Mackay on keys and of course, Theo Katzman on vocals/keys/guitar. Watching the crowd go insane for someone like Theo warms my heart because every time I see him perform, he gives it 110%. This performance being no different, Theo and the band led the raucous NYC crowd into a lively 16 song set, which stretched across 3 albums worth of material.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I have been keeping up with Theo’s music for quite some time now, and to see him consistently write and perform such clever songs is such a treat. You could give Theo a piece of buttered toast, and I’m confident he’d come up with a witty and super catchy song explaining the virtues of such a simple snack. I am never bored listening to Theo on my own, but I’m 100 times more entertained in a room full of strangers singing along with Theo, even when he hits the heights of his upper register that have my voice cracking like a teenaged boy. Beginning strong with “Be The Wheel,” he rolled through “5 Watt Rock,” “Hit The Target,” “You Could Be President,” and funny enough during “Corn Does Grow,” a crowd member managed to hand Theo an entire corn on the cob which he promptly took a bite of, and quipped later that he hoped it wasn’t laced with something. Theo’s onstage banter also included sections where Theo let the crowd sing and had mini music lessons, calling out which key we should be singing in, and messages of hope, positivity and love, which I’m sure everyone appreciated.
Theo interacting with the rest of the band was such a joy to watch, you would have thought I’ve known these guys all their lives. But it’s wonderful seeing musicians as talented as everyone on that stage enjoying every second they get to play music, whether they’re in front of a crowd, or just having fun amongst themselves. Rejoining the band onstage, May Erlewine also mentioned observation about Theo and how genuine he is as a person and as he is with the music he creates. That gratitude also spilled out from Theo towards his mom who was nestled within the crowd, as he dedicated “Nobody Loves You Like Your Mother,” ending the evening on a fitting high note that only Theo can hit.
Article/Images: Lesley Keller