Concert review: Langhorne Slim at Crowbar, Ybor City

click to enlarge Concert review: Langhorne Slim at Crowbar, Ybor City - Philip Bardi
Philip Bardi
Concert review: Langhorne Slim at Crowbar, Ybor City

Casting a ray of indie roots and folk rock sunshine on my hump day slump, Langhorne Slim played with willful abandon to a room of 100 or so attentive fans, lifting spirits each and every one, black bowler hat askew, at one point flying from his sweaty head as he raised his battered acoustic guitar in the air triumphantly and strummed it with vigorous intensity, his pick flying up and down the fretboard. [Text by Leilani, photos by Phil.]

The troubadour from Philadelphia who re-located to Brooklyn as all good little indie artists must writes lyrics that are poignant, poetic, heartfelt and never too maudlin, his delivery warm and compelling, passionate, even wild at times, his tenor registering high and hoarse and distinctively sweet as he relates experiences or memories or stories of heartbreak and healing. Live, he commands the stage with that certain combination of effervescent energy, creative pheromones and quirky charismatic showmanship only really special singer-songwriters possess, drawing you in with his unassuming and intoxicating passion, and holding you rapt with his easy banter, anecdotes, song intros, and general good humor.

Slim is apparently not as well-known as I'd previously assumed based on the thin crowd who showed up to see him last Wednesday at Crowbar, but he was amazing, nonetheless, and the turnout was likely related to the fact that his show fell on the same night as a pretty crucial Rays game (Sept. 28), which preoccupied the people at the bar watching muted TVs.

But the folks who's taken up posts in front and around the stage were held firmly in Slim's thrall as he kicked off a set of rootsy, dusty road jams with the rousing philosophical musings of the faintly Irish-tinged "Back to the Wild." Slim was backed with tight efficiency by his three-piece, "The Law" — drummer Malachi DeLorenzo, upright bassist Jeff Ratner, and David Moore on banjo and keys, who proved himself a fiery instrumentalist in an unassuming trucker hat, thrashing his banjo so hard and fast that at times, he seemed almost possessed.

Slim had a big presence but wasn't a really big guy, possibly why he's amassed such an extensive hat collection. Tonight, it was the aforementioned black bowler paired with a collared pinstriped shirt, sleeves rolled up and eventually shed all together in favor of a cooler striped tank underneath, a neck kerchief (never shed), black slacks. His vocals soared over the room as he plucked and strummed his guitar, one time so hard that he snapped a string and switched to electric for a few numbers while his tech re-strung his primary instrument. He was in constant motion, stomping in time to the beat, jumping up and down as the tempo of the music mounted, careening from one side of the tiny stage to the other, climbing on and leaping off amps, tuning in and jamming with the drummer, the bassist, the banjo player, always at ease and having a great time throughout.

"This is our very first night in Tampa," Slim commented before launching into "Restless," joking "I'd like to invite all of you out for a sandwich… but seriously, I'd like to invite you all to sing along to any song you might know. And if you don't know the words, make some up and sing the shit out of those!"

His setlist was a well-thought out 90 minutes and 20 songs long, drawing primarily from 2009's Be Set Free and his 2007 self-titled LP. He went from ballads with a rousing kick — tender or bittersweet odes dedicated to women, like "Mary" and "Collette," the honky tonk piano stomp of "Cinderella," the bluesy drive of "Honey Pie" — to anthemic, free-spirited, uplifting numbers like "Hello Sunshine" and the joyous life-affirming "Be Set Free," all expressions of his hopes and his dreams colored with his uniquely Langhorne outlook. He even played the optimistic let's-run-away ode, "Worries," likely the song that newer fans were most familiar with, since it was used in all those vibrant Travelers Insurance commercials. He also threw in a few new numbers that he said would be on the record they were working on now, including a moving tune he dedicated to his late grandpa, "Back to the Cabin."

He encored two songs solo, just he and his guitar, the first, appropriately, "I Love You, But Goodbye," the sort of sorrowful ballad that lends itself best to a stripped-down delivery. The band joined him to close out the show with "I Ain't Dead," and halfway through, Slim hopped off the stage and into the crowd, serenaded his fans face to face, then climbed precariously onto a bar stool and offered his wailing sermon from atop. It was one of those moments where you think, Goddamn, am I ever glad I came out on a Wednesday night. Here's hoping he returns.

Setlist (as far as I could cobble it together)

1. Back to the Wild
2. Honey Pie
3. Restless
4. Cinderella
5. Collette
6. Worries
7. Spinning Compass
8. In the Midnight
11. Hello Sunshine
12. Be Set Free
13. Back to the Cabin
15. Mary
16. Blow Your Mind

1. I Love You, But Goodbye
2. New Song
3. I Ain’t Dead

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