Live: Greg Holden/1.16.16/Boston, MA
I first encountered Greg Holden while he was on tour with Delta Rae where I was able to grab a few minutes with him pre-set to talk his new record “Chase The Sun”, coming out just four days before our interview. I was instantly charmed by the way he spoke about his musical process to the presence he held. One thing I regret was that I was unable to catch his set that evening but during the next few months, I delved into “Chase The Sun” and eagerly anticipated his next Boston date.
That date was a while to come but it came last week when he played his first headlining show in Boston at Café 939 at Berklee School of Music. It’s a great intimate student run venue and was packed to the gills which Holden commented on throughout the set. He talked about how he was truly worried that people wouldn’t even show up but you could only hope. It’s clear his record has made an impression on Boston as well I assume the rest of the country if Boston is any indication.
The first thing out of Holden’s mouth was “How you guys doing, Boston” and he quickly continued on into this set. He chose to open his set with Save Yourself which is a very radio rock friendly track. This one could definitely be a hit for him. Something I really enjoyed about Holden and his band’s set is the range within the tracks and the planned set list. There would be uppers, there would be slower ones but they were well mixed in the set. The vibes of each song make it impossible for anyone to pin Holden into a box.
By the second song, Greg engaged his audience throughout his set saying they were now part of the Greg Holden band which the crowd ate up. “The moment you walk in the door you become an honorary member of the Greg Holden band. It’s a rule, you have to sing”. He played both old and new throughout his set. Early on, one that really stuck with me was his track The American Dream. His lyrics are well showcased but in many of these songs, there is incredibly strong instrumental interludes that really make the live performance magical. The crowd really came alive when he got to Give It Away in his set calling for a singalong. It was total Frank Turner vibes and was a definite stand out track in the set. He was big on crowd interaction encouraging people to ‘put your arm around someone you don’t know for this one’.
The set was filled with several anecdotes that I feel really connected the band to the crowd more than one normally sees. At a point he said, ‘I write songs about people I don’t know because my life’s boring. So if you go, this guy’s a dick it’s not me’. As he introduced the next song he even said, ‘This song is not about me because I’m indeed not a Sudanese refugee’. I think the idea that he writes songs that aren’t about him is maybe the reason he has had the success that he has had both as a songwriter for himself as well as for other people. This song being The Lost Boy which is one of his more known tracks. While playing a beautiful selection of his own songs, he also “covered” a track, ‘I actually only know one cover and it’s a song I wrote’. The track being Home which he wrote for American Idol winner Phillip Phillips as his leadoff single with Idol. “I wrote this song about four years ago and it changed my life”, he quipped. Post Home, Holden went into a track I’ve been jamming since the show, Boys in the Street which is off his most recent record with the band coming back on stage after this song.
Holden ended his “set” with Hold on Tight, saying ‘My name is Greg Holden. We have one more song left. Technically’. After a brief exit from the stage, the band came back out. He talked about how he had had a recurring dream about a guy coming in and shooting him. After he wrote the song, the dream stopped happening and that song was the one he ended with, The Next Life.
Overall, Holden blew away the crowd as well as this writer. He is sure to explode over 2016 and if his first headlining show was any indication of what is to come, we are all in for a treat. His range is impeccable and he and his band give a great live performance. There are only good things for Greg Holden in the near future and we can’t wait to see where his journey takes him!