April 18 2021
Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, TN
Like many other folks, I first became aware of David Cook via American Idol when he was a contestant and eventually won and propelled himself into the national spotlight. I’ve kept half an eye on his releases and career since then, as I enjoyed his music and delivery and have continued to be pleased by his music to this day.
I was very happy to check out the recent live stream show, not only to catch up on the musical musings of Cook, but also to see what the current live music via stream experience is like. I have been to literally thousands of live shows over my lifetime, but I am a newbie to this see a live concert over your computer concept. I want to take this opportunity to review not only Cook’s performance, but also the experience of seeing a show via your computer and to outline some pros and cons I feel about the experience.
I received my ticket in an informative email, followed the instructions in order to see the show. I had fallen asleep on the couch when the show was airing totally live, so I accessed the archived version which I assume is exactly the same as it would be live. PRO: You can fall asleep on the couch and still catch the show at your leisure when it is most convenient for you. CON: By not isolating the show to a particular time, you don’t get that feeling of anticipation, that ‘lights going down and THE SHOW IS ABOUT TO START’ feeling that you have at the start of every concert.
The show started with Champion which featured a heavier sound and orchestration than what I consider the post Idol David Cook sound to be. I liked it, it wasn’t anywhere near metal or hard rock, but a harder rock than Cook has been releasing of late.
Next up was Reds Turn Blue which was a wonderfully discordant song, with patches of off kilter guitar parts meant to put you in a state of discomfort. At times it felt less rehearsed, and perhaps not even finished yet in terms of the writing. The dissonant guitar parts between the chorus and each new verse was particularly satisfying those seeking quirk and a lack of harmony that 2020 seems to have brought to us.
Strange World was a return to what I consider the professional / radio ready David Cook. It is reserved, with a slowly building pace. I kept wondering when the beast was going to escape from the cage for the ‘explosive moment’ but it never came. The band instead chose to keep it slowly percolating from start to end with a slight build of tension that releases at the song’s conclusion.
Make a Move was a very measured song, feeling particularly crafted and purposeful. The guitars are providing a most subtle pillow like foundation, and the keyboard produced church bells that provided the atmosphere, subtly. This song is decidedly in the presentable professional David Cook world, with tons of polish and much less risk. It is well crafted, and very radio ready but the edges are sanded away too much for my tastes. I like a bit more grit.
Going Back was extremely minimalistic, featuring Cook on a harmonizer with a faint robotic accent to the vocal tone. The vast majority of the song is focused on Cook’s vocals, with the rest of the band playing so subtly and quietly that it is almost a contest to see how little they could play. This was not inappropriate at all, and allows the listener to completely focus on Cook’s message and delivery.
Fire was the final song of the six song set. It is the current single off of the Looking Glass EP. Cook switched to acoustic guitar, after telling us that the song began as a ballad and eventually morphed into this spirited track that it is now. Even if I had not known it, I could have predicted that this song was the single, it had that David Cook feel, and would be ready to be planted into a movie soundtrack of the end of a TV drama while the heroes are racing through trauma in order to find each other.
“You Set My Heart on Fire.” This heavy dose of palatable lyrics and references and call and response vocals is the foundation of the David Cook sound. The recurring chorus that dominates the second half of the song has the platform from which Cook can launch his more energetic vocals. Fans of his work will love Fire, as he gives fans exactly what they want, and he gives plenty of it.
The Looking Glass EP is out now, and is now live show tested!
By far my favorite track of this show was the opener, Champion. The song more effectively references the wild streak that Cook exhibited when we all first met him on national television. The intervening years have seen the distinctiveness of that wild man caged, and while Cook occasionally gives us the tiniest glimpse of him- his public persona is much more of a leading man figure, more reserved musically. He is great at it, and it clearly is the foundation of his career. For me, I tend to be more interested in the wild figures, but I have a deep admiration for the skill it takes to consistently present a coherent and polished image and material as Cook is able.
So far as the streaming experience? Mandolin did a great job of presenting the performance in an easily digestible way. PRO: I did not get any beer spilled on me, I could enjoy the show at the pace I wished, and without any distraction. CON: I felt like I was watching an appearance on television, rather than a truly live show. Like much of the music, the performance was so purposeful- that at times it lacked personality.
Cook did a good job talking about the material, his experiences in this year of pandemic, and got truly personal several times. This happens at live shows too, but with a more spontaneous feel than this format provides. I almost felt as if we were watching a talk show between songs, rather than getting Cook’s unexpected bursts of feeling or thoughts. This may also be a result of over a decade of training and marketing- it may just be difficult for Cook to break out of his ‘professional’ mode after all of this time.
A word about the band. They are tight and perfectly complimentary to Cook. It’s clear that the other three musicians are meant to provide the foundation for Cook’s songs and lyrics, and they do a great job of enhancing the sound. In particular it would appear as if Jeffrey Scott is the main decorator of sound, providing ambient guitar and keyboards, vocal harmony and in general Scott provides a sonic foil for Cook. The band members on bass and drums, Mike Ball and Thomas Branch respectively, are staying in their lane and lending an extremely solid rhythmic base. All the players defer to Cook, but not in an intimidated sort of way, but rather in a professional “do all we can to showcase the artist and song” sort of way.
Overall the live streaming concept has it’s PRO: in that you get to see some music, support the artist, and perhaps give yourself a little treat. CON: it is not a concert. It does not provide the break and escape from reality that you get when you are at a live music experience. We all do what we must do in these times, and I would rather be able to hear and see music than not at all, but I still pine for the true experience that has been the defining feeling and goal of my adult life. There is no substitute for watching a live performance in person.
David Cook – vocals, guitar
Jeffrey Scott- Lead Guitar/Keys
2. Reds Turn Blue
3. Strange World
4. Make A Move
5. Going Back
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