I arrived with my wife and two of my closest friends at the Larsen Student Union on Grantham, PA's Messiah College campus around 7:45 PM. Grantham is close to the busy lifestyle of the "big" city of Harrisburg but it's a quiet country town where one can get away from it all.
There were already about 100 college students sitting at round tables eating their dinner, doing some studying (finals are coming in a few weeks) and in the corner there was a billiards table where a few guys were shooting pool. My wife and I have been out of school now almost three years, so we both felt slightly out of place but spent a few minutes reminiscing about our time in college.
Brennan Strawn took the stage at 8:20 PM, about 20 minutes later than scheduled, which we were prepared for because a friend told us these things never start on time. Brennan is a Northern Records artist from New York and played four acoustic songs from his upcoming release. Strawn, who also plays guitar for Kevin Max's band, is set to release his debut album later this Spring. Strawn's sound is like Burlap to Cashmere meets Kevin Max meets opera singer. His demeanor on stage was laid back and almost shy, which didn't fly well with the restless crowd. We were anxious for the featured artist.
But before that, The Violet Burning was scheduled to take the stage. I had been told that they have an amazing live show and had previewed some of their tunes on myspace.com. I was not disappointed. They rocked the Falcons (Messiah's mascot) for about 45 minutes with a good mix of some old school Violet Burning tunes and a couple new ones. They've got a classic rock mixed with a bit of hard rock and even some emo to their sound. New cuts included "All I Want," "Already Gone," "Rewind," and "Do You Love Me," which drew an emphatic response of "YES WE DO," from the audience. You can learn more about the Violet Burning, and listen to their new album Drop-Dead before you buy it by visiting their official web site.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the Violet Burning, I was there for one purpose, and it caught my eye near the end of VB's set. Kevin Max stood behind a giant glass window in a room up the stairs to my right. They must have been doing a photo shoot or something because the figure was illuminated with each flash of the camera. Then, Kevin came out and stood on the balcony to listen in on part of the Violet Burning portion of our entertainment. I looked up at him and he seemed to notice (probably didn't, but it was cool anyway) and nodded in acknowledgement. About a minute before he was set to begin his portion of the show, I noticed him stopping by the coffee cart to buy himself some coffee. I had to get his autograph for my 10th Anniversary Free at Last CD cover. My goal is to have all three members sign it, and this was Kmax's first trip to PA since his days in dc Talk. I was in luck; he graciously signed a few autographs before heading to the platform.
He came onto the stage with coffee in hand and opened up his act by playing "Seek" from Between the Fence and the Universe followed by "The Imposter." Kevin played a good mix of songs in his set, including "What if I Stumble" from his years with dc Talk, three tunes from his EP Between the Fence and the Universe, including a more upbeat version of "Stranded 72.5", a cover tune ("Absolution"), and some excerpts from his PO.ET.RY book that was recently released. The rest of his concert was filled with new songs from the Imposter release on Northern Records including "Jumpstart Your Electric Heart," "Confessional Booth," "Sanctuary," and "I Need You, the End."
It was somewhat frustrating that the crowd was extremely laid back and fairly non-responsive to Kevin when he tried to get everyone to stand up (only a handful actually did), but once he left the stage most were clapping and cheering for an encore.
That encore included an acoustic version of "Existence" from Stereotype Be with Brennan Strawn playing the guitar, followed by a rocking live version of "The Royal Path of Life" which Max seemed to pour himself into.
Kevin Max made the most of a night filled with technical glitches and an all but dead audience (until the last two songs), and put on a high energy show with the Violet Burning and Brennan Strawn. For more details on Kevin Max and for more dates on the Walking the Imposter Tour visit www.kevinmax.com.
This is the first of two concerts that I'll be reviewing in the next few weeks. Your feedback is welcome so we at inReview.net can continue to bring you the best reviews, news, and features in the industry.