Show Review: The Humble Grapes

On Saturday night, The Bitter End came to life with a performance by The Humble Grapes, a NYC-based band.  Full of soul and exceptionally talented musicians, as the night went on The Humble Grapes were really able to hype up their audience.

The band is comprised primarily of lead singer, Brie Capone, and David Kaufman on piano.  It doesn’t feel right to even call Kaufman a keyboardist, his presence on the full-stage piano deserves much more recognition.  As does the backup band that accompanied Capone and Kaufman Saturday night.  The duo were supported by an incredible drummer, insane guitarist, bass guitarist, and unique background singer–a nice mix of girls and guys.

During their first song, “Save Me,” I was especially impressed by the background vocals.  It was a great touch to the live performance, especially for this relatively low-key band.  Capone truly becomes one with the music when she sings, and that sense of feeling the music became obvious throughout the band, particularly in the drum and electric guitar solos.  The band also made several attempts to make sure Kaufman’s piano was amped up high enough to showcase its importance in The Humble Grapes’ overall sound.

In their opener and throughout the show, I found that though their musical presence was sound and entertaining, there was not much to their lyrics.  It was a bit disappointing, though it is easier to get away with in a live setting.  The arrangement and atmosphere of The Bitter End itself was a little stifling for the band, as well.  The main area is seated, which I found really limited audience participation.  With a more unknown band it is also difficult to get the crowd excited, and even harder when they’re sitting.

The Humble Grapes found their groove when they busted out the perfect cover–Lorde’s “Royals.”  The song was a perfect fit for Capone’s sound and the spirit of her voice.  The familiarity sparked the crowd and The Humble Grapes’ momentum soon soared.

They followed with the crisp piano sounds of “Life, Love, and Pain,” where Kaufman could show off his chops.  Then they segued into “The Only One In Love,” which was my favorite of the night.  The instrumentals were fantastic from every member on stage.  Each person got to bring their talent to the forefront and showcase all the underlying layers of The Humble Grapes.  The lyrics also came through in this song.  I found them beautiful and relatable–The Humble Grapes were winning me over.

However, the next song, “24 Hours,” was not my favorite.  It seemed to be a turning point in the show, but something in the song felt like an abrupt switch that just did not sit well.  It was a lengthy song, and I will amend that it did turn into a jam by the end.  Capone packed on the power and was able to hype up the crowd.

They played a new song, “Heaven Help Me,” and an older song, “Honey,” which was unfortunately a bit like a retreating step backwards.  For a live show, “Honey” felt too slow.  However, Capone and Kaufman were clearly proud of it, making it a testament to who The Humble Grapes are.  You can’t begrudge a band that, and Kaufman’s talent was back redeeming the song on his piano.

Kaufman’s excitement fueled into the last song of their set, “Addicted.”  It was another upbeat tune, and as soon as Kaufman stood up to pound away on the keys, you knew it was serious.  By this time, The Humble Grapes had come full circle and had the room energized and feeling like we were in some old-fashioned, classic saloon.  It was a great time, and propelled the crowd to call out for an encore.  I was pleasantly surprised with this turnaround, but was slightly disheartened when The Humble Grapes decided to slow it down with a song called “Sleep.”  They promised to bring the momentum back up as the song progressed, and they did end on a good note, but it would not have been my first choice.

Overall, The Humble Grapes have an excellent stage presence and are clearly talented.  In fact, I much prefer their live sound and would encourage anyone to see them, if only to hear Capone’s rich, soulful vocals, and Kaufman’s captivating control over the black and whites.  The Humble Grapes will play next at Rockwood Music Hall in New York on December 20.

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