As Halloween weekend came to an end, Love and Theft, and Joel Crouse kept the party going at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park New York, a smaller concert venue in the upstate area.
The spike in popularity of country music in New York and the rest of the northeast over the last few years has resulted in an abundance of growth, development and increased appreciation of of the genre by many who may not have given it a chance in the past. New York City’s first county music radio station in decades and their first county music festival ever have arisen from this growth that has also allowed up and coming artists to play in smaller venues on Long Island, NYC and upstate New York. In the past, only the biggest superstars of country music came to Long Island and NYC, and when they did, they played in enormous venues (Madison Square Garden, Jones Beach etc.) that are inaccessible to many due to cost.
Now that country music is exploding, up and coming stars like Love and Theft and Joel Crouse have the opportunity to play at places like Upstate Concert Hall, The Emporium and Patchogue Theater on Long Island and Best Buy Theater and Gramercy Theater in NYC, where both acts played a show on October 30th before traveling upstate.
After DJ Du, known for his work with the Sirius XM country station The Highway warmed the crowd up with an eclectic fusion of old and new county, classic rock and even some rap mixes, before Joel Crouse and his guitarist Kyle Rife took the stage for their opening acoustic set. Crouse, who released his debut album Even The River Runs this past August is a talented vocalist, musician and performer, but it’s his songwriting that tends to set him apart from his peers. Crouse writes with maturity and skill that belies his youth, creating deeply personal, thoughtful lyrics that are immensely relatable. Crouse’s gift at penning exceptional tunes was readily apparent Sunday night through the simplicity of his striped down, acoustic set, which allowed his songwriting and vocals to shine.
Crouse performed a combination of songs from Even The River Runs, yet to be released songs, and well known covers that delighted the crowd. The twangy “Summer Love” was infectious is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable tracks on Crouse’s debut album. “Oh Juliet” is an angst filled, heartfelt mid-tempo song with a killer chorus and excellent guitar work (particularly at the end of the song) that blend together to create a song that sounds handcrafted for live shows. Crouse also performed his first single “If You Want Some” a fun party track, and current single “Don’t Tell Me” a song with self depreciating charm and a irresistible beat. No matter how good an artist’s current music may be, it is always exciting to hear new material, and Crouse delivered, showcasing new songs “Lonely,” “We Don’t Have To Work It Out,” and “Don’t Get Too Close” all phenomenal songs which would be worthy of making the cut on his next full length album or EP.
Although he’s young, Crouse’s music and stage presence reflect maturity, sophistication and confidence that stretch far beyond his twenty two years. He is without a doubt an up-and-coming star in county music, and if his show in Clifton Park is any indication, fans can look forward to outstanding music and live shows from Crouse for years to come.
DJ Du returned to the stage to keep the crowd loose before headliners Love and Theft, consisting of Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles finally took the stage. Like Crouse, the duo, played a diverse mix of old, current and yet to be released material. Gunderson and Liles have an infectious, fun loving spirit on stage, and they made interaction with fans an integral element of their live show. At one point they had fun with a couple of fans in the front row that loved their drummer Mitch White, who they good naturedly encouraged to stand up and pose for goofy pictures. The duo were constantly high fiving fans over the barrier, grabbing fan’s phones to take selfies and speaking with fans in the front row. Liles even handed his phone to a fan to tape one of their songs.
Love and Theft performed album track “Girls Look Hot In Trucks,” and popular singles “Runnin’ Out of Air,” and the sweet “If You Ever Get Lonely” from their self-titled second album, all of which were well known to the crowd. They also performed “Runaway” their first ever single together from their debut album World Wide Open. Their current single “Night That You’ll Never Forget” from their upcoming album is a good time jam that was connected with fans due to it’s enjoyable laid back vibe. Several times throughout the their set Crouse (clad in a hysterical oversized fur coat, sunglasses and beanie) and Rife rejoined the duo on stage, aiding them with a couple covers, most notably The Allman Brother’s song “Midnight Rider,” while Rife showcased his talent with his own thrashing guitar solo. A highlight of the night came when Love and Theft performed what will be the second single from their upcoming album “Whiskey On My Breath,” a self proclaimed antidote to “bro-country” borne out of the duo’s desire to “write and release a song that really means something.” The duo closed out the night with their smash hit and first #1 hit “Angel Eyes” a fan favorite that had the crowd singing along to every word.
Fans at Upstate Concert Hall Sunday night were treated to an outstanding show by two up-and-coming acts in the county music world. Crouse and Love and Theft put on an engaging and entertaining concert that was highlighted by superb songwriting, fun fan interaction and goofy collaborations between the two acts. This show also has the opportunity to pave the way for more frequent county shows in the Clifton Park venue and continue to growth of country music in smaller venues throughout New York and Long Island. If fans are lucky, Crouse and Love and Theft will return to upstate New York in the near future for another show.
Review by Taylor Ostrick