Exceptional music comes to those who wait and wait and wait
By Christine T. Carmichael, unapologetic Radio Company evangelist and academic librarian ?
Music is well said to be the speech of angels. — Thomas Carlyle
Interior: Analog-at-the-Hutton, 8PM CST
Fans of Radio Company have been waiting years for the group to perform live. Tonight, December 19, 2022, approximately 300 of them will experience Steve Carlson and Jensen Ackles showcasing their musical prowess in person.
The rest of us are making do with a live stream via StageIt.com. (Many are praying to the IT gods that servers don’t crash and home internet connections remain stable.) Obtaining permission to quote chat participants is challenging due to the speed at which folks are logging on, hitchhiking, or merely squee-ing about the upcoming concert.
Louden Swain takes the stage first, and they are dynamic. They released a new album in October, Feelings and Such, and are fresh off of an eventful weekend at #SPNNash, Creation Entertainment’s Salute to Supernatural Convention — Nashville. It’s tough to tell who is more excited: Rob, Billy, Stephen, and Michael, or the crowd. Then the camera pulls back a bit, and we can see the Analog.
It’s a breathtaking venue. Seductive lighting causes velvet curtains at the back of the stage to alternate between red and blue. Analog’s online presence gives off a swanky, sultry vibe. The teal ottomans, orange couches, and gold velvet accent pillows complement the wood columns so well it’s easy to imagine sinking into the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the chat scrolls at a nauseating speed as folks clamor for a close-up of Billy Moran. He totally kills on the third song in their set, “Guilty One.” (I promise that their full set list will be at the end!)
True to form, Rob Benedict wants to make sure they play their greatest hits. The crowd, prepared with finger lights for “She Waits,” make this a Saturday Night Special-esque performance on steroids!
Dedicating “Amazing” to all the fans — in-person and on the interwebs — causes Angelique from South Africa to shout into the chat,
“SO WORTH WAKING UP AT 4AM TO WATCH!”
After thanking Radio Company for asking Louden Swain to open, they play a hilarious non-kazoo/ kind-of-kazoo/ blubbery-lips solo during “Medicated.”
Billy once again slays the guitar solo as they close out with “Mama’s Jam,” and Linderhill from the chat observes, “It’s so nice that Rob bought a shirt to match Billy’s guitar.”
Though they “blew our asses away,” it did not prepare us for what we were about to experience…
Interior: Analog-at-the-Hutton, 9:02 PM CST
Have you ever had an instinct — an almost clairvoyant expectation — that whatever event you were attending was so unique and momentous that you’d remember it for the rest of your life?
Since Volume 1 dropped, I’ve maintained that Radio Company’s songs — like Shakespeare’s plays — were meant to be performed live. (Later on, KaylaNov14 says as much during “Dead to Rights.”)
Before the StageIt video feed appears, we can hear the crowd cheering. I wholeheartedly agree with MarianK: “We have the best seats in the house.”
Steve Carlson and Jensen Ackles take the stage along with an entire cadre of instrumentalists and backup singers.
Steve and Jensen (from Stacey Geiger) “Such gorgeous instruments! And the guitars are nice, too!”
Steve says the set list order (at the end of this piece) is intended to convey the story of his and Jensen’s friendship, song-writing collaboration history, and also make it easier on the musicians.
He alone plays something like eight different instruments, including a lap steel guitar, acoustic guitars, and a mandolin. In fact, when he pulls out the lap steel for “Let Me Be,” I tear up.
There is a hint of nervousness in our duo, and while understandable, it doesn’t appear to last very long. It can’t be easy to have only one or two solid rehearsals before your debut concert, especially after a hectic, if satisfying, weekend.
As they move through the set, the stage lights are so warm that Jensen removes his stylish jacket. There’s a collective gasp and cheer the world over.
Epic things are happening on this stage, and it’s difficult to convey what emotions are percolating. A new feeling arises with every song, and they are building toward something powerful. The energy pouring from the stage is reflected back to the performers 1000%.
I CANNOT be the only fan seeing this happen. The positive vibes released into the universe will ripple for a long time. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Jensen introduces their bass player by asking, “Dean, are you already sweating?” Then he turns to the audience with, “Yes, yes! Our bass player’s name is Dean!”
“A happy accident,” says Steve. It’s not long before virtual guest D33__ says, “Steve shreds on “Drowning.””
They are NOT wrong, and when Jensen belts out “Hoooold the da-ay…” the crowd is going crazy, and I hope I’m not the only one who has tears — again — streaming down their cheeks.
I will never tire of hearing “Truly Forgotten,” and learning it’s Jensen’s favorite song from Volume 2 makes it exceptionally memorable. Andrew Golden, trumpet player extraordinaire, elicits chills with his horn. We’re about one-third of the way through the setlist, and it’s apparent that Jensen has become way more comfortable as he eases into “City Grown Willow.”
Of course, this is Steve’s favorite song from Volume 2. How could it not be? His guitar is delicately masterful.
And just like that, they ran away with our hearts.
They slow things down even further over the next several minutes, each taking turns singing solo pieces. Steve’s “Pinata Novia” appears regularly during StageIt Sunday Sessions. Tonight’s version is rendered more poignant with the addition of Gideon Kline’s cello.
My absolute favorite part of the whole evening is Jensen picking up an electric guitar as Steve trades his guitar for a mandolin. I know what’s coming…annnd I’m so wrong! “Stray Wally” (yes, the fandom named Jensen’s wayward bangs) makes an appearance during “Angeles.”
The online consensus is that it is worth losing sleep to see and hear this debut concert.
Note: Before I go further, here are the musicians: Dean Moore (bass), Harrison Finks (keys), Jules Belmont (guitar/ steel guitar), Cherie Smith & Angela Miller (background vocals), Josie Kline (fiddle), Gideon Kline (cello), Zakk Joiner (alto/tenor sax), Andrew Golden (trumpet), Megan James (drums). (If I’ve misspelled anyone’s name, ascribed the wrong instrument, or God forbid, forgotten anyone, please tell me!)
If you follow Steve, you already know the story behind his “Different Town” project. But not everyone does, so he and Jensen proceed to tell the story; only Steve thinks Jensen doesn’t have it quite right. So, Jensen calls him “Mr. Detail-oriented” and makes Steve finish the tale. Gracious as always, Steve ends by complimenting his friend and colleague.
“My favorite person I’ve ever written with is this guy sitting next to me.” — Steve Carlson
Something Old, Borrowed, and Blue
Steve calls Cherie Smith and Angela Miller to the stage — the only two musicians besides Steve and Jensen to make the trip from Austin — to reprise a song Cherie sang at Steve’s house about a year ago.
Both ladies have been recorded on all three Radio Company albums, and they add so much depth to the first two that it’s hard to imagine how the third one could be any better.
Holy buckets, did it get hot in here? “I Can’t Stand the Rain” is my new favorite Tina Turner song as long as Cherie covers it. And seeing Jensen playing a percussion instrument like he’s just one of the band…he’s even chewing his gum in rhythm!
But Wait! There’s More!
Jensen trades in his cajón (I’m NOT making the obvious joke here) for an absolutely beautiful Fender electric guitar while Steve reacquires the mandolin. Deja vu briefly transports me back to Steve’s birthday performance at the Family Business Beer Company when Jensen’s instrument doesn’t come through the speakers. Those thirty or forty seconds can feel like a lifetime, but the connection gets made, and NOW I know what’s coming.
The opening phrase, “Quarter to foreseen violence,” emerges in the dulcet harmonies of Jensen and Steve together. This is why we’re all here. Oh, that puddle of goo on the floor is all of the fans melting. I’m singing along at the top of my lungs because they told us to, mashing up When In Rome’s “The Promise” all the way to the end. It is glorious in my basement!
The concert could end after this song, and no fan would leave disappointed.
They’ve played for an hour and 20 minutes and still have more to give. I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence. Maybe it’s a bit cheeky debuting in Nashville — the home of country music. But it lends the third album some external credibility now that we’re learning at least two new songs are definitely country songs.
My erratic first thoughts on the new song, “Every Light”:
— “booze and cheap tattoos” — fabulous lyric
— hmmm, some “Whiskey Lullaby” vibes — Allison Krauss would be impressed
— is the steel guitar player the same as the guitarist backing them up?
— dang, this feels like an ode to Dean Winchester!
They’re all just having a blast. Following “Any Way That You Want Me” with the solidly slow blues of “Sounds of Someday” allows for those sublime harmonies to resonate across the room.
Steve says his good ideas come in the shower and a haunting cello intros a Christmas-y song he wrote called “An Auld Lang Syne.” Zakk is truly gifted on the saxophone, and it reminds me of Clarence Clemmons riffing on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Kickin’ It Old School
Their last song is the first song from the new album, for which we still do not have a title. “Right Kind of Trouble” starts out country/blues, and Louden Swain’s Billy Moran steps up to slay on the guitar once again. Whoa! The tempo changes to a heavy rock beat leading into Elvis’s “That’s All Right Mama.”
Steve and Jensen trade off the lead vocals, and the brass are on fire! Ain’t no one got to worry, Nashville. The King’s rep couldn’t be in better hands.
Louden Swain Playlist
Pop Tart Heart (You Can’t Finish What You Started)
Guilty One (new)
Crystal Ball (new)
Radio Company Playlist
All My Living Time
Let Me Be
Watching Over Me
Dead to Rights
City Grown Willow
Pinata Novia (Steve)
I Can’t Stand the Rain (Tina Turner covered by Cherie Smith)
Anyway That You Want Me
Sounds of Someday
An Old Lang Syne
Right Kind of Trouble (new)
That’s All Right Mama (Steve covers Elvis)
Did you watch Jensen’s and Steve’s concert? What did you think of it? Were you lucky enough to be there in person? Add your thoughts below!
You can find more of Christine’s reviews and other writings at //firstname.lastname@example.org