By: Robyn Tuazon
The first concert of the year is always an exciting one for any live music photographer, concert reviewer, or just any person who frequents and enjoys the experience of live music. Some of my firsts of the year for me in the past have included, The Suffers, Toro y Moi, Brian McKnight, and Khalid. For 2022, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to cover, who I believe to be one of the most exceptional and extraordinary talents, voices, songwriters, and human beings on this planet and that is the incredible Allen Stone.
The 34-year old soul and R&B artist, based out of eastern Washington, is someone whose work I’ve been following and listening to for well over a decade. To be able to have the opportunity and experience this special APART Tour, is one of those full-circle moments for me and already a highlight of my year. This tour focuses on his recent album, APART, released last November, which includes stripped-back versions of all his classics that span over the past ten years. If you’re someone who enjoys acoustic music and intimate gatherings then this was one show you would have loved and appreciated. Set in the downstairs venue of the beautiful White Oak Music Hall, just north of downtown Houston, was a sold out crowd of maybe 300 people. I had been to this venue countless times and this was my first time attending a show where the entire downstairs was seated. For someone who is only 5’ 3”, this was perfect for me to navigate through the crowd. Music festivals are fun and all, but I’ll take an intimate concert over a festival any day of the week.
Donning a snazzy brown suit and a red beanie, Allen serenaded the room for 90 glorious minutes with a simple set-up of one acoustic guitar, one electric guitar, and one keyboard, while mostly sitting on a wood barstool, and at times accompanied by his two backing vocalists, the talented Stephany Mora and Brian Johnson, whose combined harmonies were so damn good, it could make you cry. Who am I kidding? I did cry. And judging from the crowd, I wasn’t the only one. Haha, a fun fact we learned that night was how he came to meet aforementioned vocalists. Apparently, when he did his fun karaoke extravaganza tour in 2019, they were some of the fans who were in attendance and sang along with him, and he was that impressed by their vocal prowess, that he stayed in contact with them and brought them on tour. It’s little things like that are one of the many reasons why I rock with Allen Stone.
Some highlights for me that evening included hearing, Consider Me, a sweet song from his Building Balance album, that I’ve been keeping in rotation lately. Another one was when he played the song, Circle, which he admitted is a pretty dark song that he wrote in a low point in his life. While explaining the history of the song, he continued to say,
“I wrote that song when I was way down, way down.. but now, I’m way way up. I wanna let anybody know who’s here today who listens to the song, that strikes a cord with them, there’s a light at the end of that tunnel. Things can change, you can evolve, you can grow, you just gotta stay in the game, alright, and I love you.”
YO. I swear, we all needed to hear that. I know that I did. Music is such a therapeutic, comforting, and healing thing for so many of us. And to top that off with such honest, pure, and encouraging words from someone like Allen, well that’s everything. Hope is a powerful thing to give to others and Allen did that beautifully.
In the second half of the set, where he transitioned to the keys, were some more fan favorites including his cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s cover of Bob Marley & The Wailers’, Is This Love. Wait, did you catch that? Lol Just listen to it and thank me later. Right after that, he jumped into another gem off the Radius album, entitled, Where You’re At, which contains this beautiful lyric that says, “The best part of learning is just loving where you’re at.” Add that one to the soundtrack of your life. If he would have ended it right there, I honestly would have been satisfied and went home a happy gal. But then this man started playing a tune, that I would say isn’t too hard to recognize, especially for those of us who grew up in the late '80s / '90s era. Allen and his back-up singers effortlessly belted out the beloved theme song, Everywhere You Look, in honor of the late and great Bob Saget. As a young father himself, this song means as much to him as it does to the rest of the world.
And no concert is complete without a good ol’ fashioned encore right? Allen ended the night with yet another cover but this time of, I Say a Little Prayer by the Queen of Soul herself, Miss Aretha Franklin, or Miss Dionne Warwick, depending on your preference and music knowledge. And the final FINAL song was Bed I Made, originally a bonus track off of Radius, Allen re-recorded another version of this for APART that features another artist I like, Canadian singer- songwriter Alessia Cara, whose part was covered beautifully by Stephany. Tie off the night with a round of roaring applause and that concluded, “An Evening with Allen Stone.”