Pop-rock singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw has been putting out music since 2003 when his hit "I Don't Want To Be" became the theme song of primetime soap One Tree Hill. His first album Chariot kept him on the map with various hits like "Follow Through" and "I Don't Want To Be." Now over a decade later, DeGraw is still going strong, putting on energetic live shows for new and dedicated fans alike.
To celebrate the release of his fifth studio album, Make A Move, DeGraw is touring with fellow headliner and rocker Matt Nathanson and opener Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. The tour is a testosterone packed event that "rocked our socks off" just like McMahon promised the crowd it would at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood last night.
McMahon, formerly part of Something Corporate and more recently of Jack's Mannequin, is going solo these days with after leaving his band two years ago. For a guy used to playing for packed rooms and sold out shows, it was a little weird to see him onstage for just 30 minutes to play a handful of songs.
But he ruled every minute of his set. Tickling the ivories, he brought some old and new tunes out for the crowd. The highlight of his performance, without a doubt, was a newer tune, "Cecilia and the Satellite." The singer explained he wrote it for his 5-month-old daughter. After a battle with leukemia back in 2005, she's definitely a miracle child. It left a few misty eyed. The set went by too soon with McMahon promising great performances from Nathanson and DeGraw.
Nathanson took the stage and soon had the entire crowd laughing along with him in no time. The rocker greeted the audience by telling everyone, "I've come to massage you into magic," and massage us he did, using his powerful vocals and sense of humor.
"We might ask you to do some things outside of your comfort zone tonight," he said, "We might ask you to clap and we might ask you to sing. Are you ready for that kind of commitment?" He certainly was, because when one man in the front didn't get into his vibe and clap along, he put him on the spot with a joke about him possibly wearing a diaper. The crowd roared with laughter.
He did a brief cover of Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" to get the crowd on their feet and made a few jokes about his drummer having a habit of twerking every time he hears that tune. Nathanson couldn't let that happen though. "We can't peak this early, I only have two hits," he joked.
After doing an age check in the room, and finding that the youngest person in the crowd was a seven-year-old boy, he chose to speak in code when explaining the meaning behind the next song he performed. He wrote "Run" with Sugarland, and his code for getting it on? He called it playing one-on-one basketball with someone in a hotel room for three days. We all got the point.
When he played "All We Are We Are" the mood mellowed. But that didn't last long. Nathanson had the crowd up on their feet for "Kinks Shirt" and had the crowd singing along to a cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."
"Everyone has a tiny Whitney Houston inside of them. Tonight we set her free!" he sang. His hit from the American Pie soundtrack "Laid" was well-received and had the crowd singing along, well maybe everyone except the seven-year-old.
Nathanson jumped into the crowd during his song "Headphones" which is about music saving lives. He made sure everyone got a chance to hear and see him close enough to touch. He gave his band a break and sang an acoustic version of "Suspended." He asked the sexy and confident to harmonize with him. They did.
Gavin DeGraw came out and took command next with his performance of "Leading Man," a role he embodied very well. This soulful pop-rock singer seemed grounded and humble. Very much a family man, he brought his whole crew, including his grandparents to the show and made sure they had seats where they could see him without having to stand.
Knowing very well that many guys there were dragged along by girlfriends, he commented, "Some of you are thinking you'd rather be at a Metallica concert. You're like, this guy doesn't even have any tattoos. But you're going to have fun tonight. And even if you don't, you should probably say you did have fun, because it'll make your car ride home a lot more pleasant for you."
Before playing a cover of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" he had a heart to heart with the crowd about chasing your dreams and not listening to people along the way who doubt you. DeGraw, who sings about being a prison guard's son, explained how he used to dream about moving to New York City to become a songwriter and singer and how friends told him it would never happen. "Watch me," he told them. The sensitive dude was on the verge of tears telling the story. The fans ate it up.
After performing an encore of "Not Over You," he left a very happy audience behind who won't be getting over him anytime soon.