MANHATTAN, NY—This was one of those shows you hear about or read about or, if you’re lucky, attend; those transformative showbiz moments that catapults an artist to another level, another unseen plane that he/she cannot come back from, nor would ever want to: Late May, 2014, when Eric Hutchinson crushed it; from the rafters to the sweaty packed floor of a sold-out Irving Plaza near Union Square, NYC. This was the night they will talk about, not unlike Springsteen at the Bottom Line or James Brown at the Apollo.
For two hours over 17 songs spanning his burgeoning three-album career, the 33-year-old pop songsmith and dynamic performer spectacularly lifted his career from the cusp of stardom straight into the deep end.
Having been privy to this “evolution” since 2006, and written about much of it here, this was Hutchinson at his most sincere, as honest a portrayal of his talents free of artifice or an ounce of conceit; as if he were able to combine those years of stirring solo gigs and an in-yo-face extravaganza into one single statement. Fronting a roaring four-piece band on piano and acoustic guitar, Hutchinson bounced, crooned, yelped and belted his most infectious songs; “All Over Now,” “Watching You Watch Him,” “OK, It’s Alright With Me” and “Best Days,” along with new staples; “Forever,” “Goodnight Goodbye” and “A Little More” as if he were a beatific conductor of a masterful jukebox in his head.
Absent was the cleverly humorous stage banter that endeared him to many loyal fans or the more contrived figure posed in his last attempt at showmanship during his previous tour. This was pure Hutchinson; cheery, intense, and draped in a grateful glow that he could ply his trade so effectively in front of a rabid New York audience that clapped, sang and chanted with him every step of the way.
This was Hutchinson’s live manifesto, much like his new record, Pure Fiction, surely is; a defining moment for his innate pop sensibilities. Now, it clearly appears, he has the right amount of material to relentlessly batter an audience with every conceivable style of pop, funk, and rock all at once.
Never one to build a wall between himself and his audience, on record or the stage, this night was the culmination of his kicking down a third wall; as Hutchinson led sing-alongs, call-and-responses and even jumped into the middle of the audience to dance and sing with the religious fervor of his R&B heroes. Perhaps a microcosm of the show was its final number, the brilliant “Tell The World” (the theme of the tour), wherein Hutchinson invited a young woman who had contacted him earlier to play trumpet. Her glowing constitution and broad smile, as she gripped the instrument bouncing to the music while hundreds before her shouted the chorus, was an imprint of a performance that may signal the beginning of something far bigger for an emerging star.
This was indeed one of those shows.