Last night, Allen Stone, a singer from Seattle who once dubbed himself a “hippie with soul,” serenaded a sold-out crowd at the Independent Theater to kick off the first of several concerts to celebrate the venue’s 10-year anniversary.
It was the perfect way to pay tribute to one of San Francisco’s beloved venues, and Allen’s words were just as powerful and poetic as his music.
Stone took the stage, embodying the charisma of his music. His image might not exactly fit the part of an R&B singer but his pipes are as convincing as a young Stevie Wonder. The tall, lanky singer, with his wavering curly hair and thick-framed glasses, sported a Motorhead T-shirt as he excitedly strolled from one side of the stage to the other, acknowledging the fervent crowd.
Their set started with a couple of his older tunes. The feel-good song “Say So” from his 2012 self-titled album raised high spirits and really set the tone for the rest of the night. Stone then grabbed his guitar and strummed a familiar riff and sang, “You used to be too used to having me around,” as the band plunged into “Quit Callin’” from his 2009 album, Last to Speak. The audience sang along as he shouted, “Get funky San Francisco,” and they responded to his wills.
New material was mixed into the set aptly, keeping the audience’s attention. The song “Fake Future,” about slowing down and removing one’s self from the tight grips of technology, was flawlessly transitioned into the Parliament-Funkadelic inspired tune “What I Have Seen.” Stone then slowed things down with a ballad that’s usually pegged as an encore song, “Unaware.”
“You say that I care, and I was unaware,” he sang passionately, showcasing his diverse musical pallet as a formidable singer of soul, funk and R&B.
Stone really utilized his band, constantly giving them praise, deservedly so, and allowing them to contribute with impressive solos. Keeping earnest to their funky roots, the keyboard player delivered an electric voice-synth solo, the bass player distorted his bass at times, the drummer mixed in desultory time signatures and the guitarist often shredded at will when the moment called.
Stone was very convictional in his words, conveying a message that transcended the moment, “I encourage you to get rid of your pride and ego. If you forget about fear you can create energy that can’t be created anywhere but here. We find a way to distract ourselves from what’s truly important. Sit back and have a wonderfully blessed night of music.”
The crowd jeered as the band broke into the tune, “Voodoo.” This night was still, however, bigger than Stone and the venue they were celebrating. There were reason’s Stone was up on that stage, three years after he first played there as an opening act. The Independent was the first venue he and his band ever played, a significant triumph and for both the artist and the venue.
While Stone was a bit preachy, he wasn’t delusional and even poked fun of himself a bit, showing his character as a fun loving, easy going individual.
A notable line: “Looking around, I see so many of you are like, ‘what the fuck is his talking about?’ But you guys make a man want to move to San Francisco.” The crowd exploded with the possibility of having Stone right in their backyard, though he quickly combated. “My heart may be a little in San Francisco, but it’s mainly in Seattle.”
The encore really eulogized the night. Stone appeared with just his guitar, “This is a new song I haven’t played in front of people before. If you don’t like it, can we just keep it cool?”
The anticipation was thick and without an inkling of worry. As Stone sang his chorus, “I’m so tired of walking this wire, I’m either Ice or I’m fire,” the crowd knew they were witnessing something special, a unique moment in time with an artist who sincerely and devoutly loves his craft.
Stone stood humbled; too modest of a man to end the set with only him on stage, so his band came out for one final song.
“This is a song you may have heard too many times,” he said confidently as they plunged into their remix of Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know,” capturing the intimacy and mutual respect between the crowd and the artist on that particular night.