David Shaw likes to prowl, and likely he’s never met a stage that could contain him. The Revivalists frontman wasted little time during the group’s sold-out appearance at the Fonda in Los Angeles, reaching into the audience almost immediately after the first notes of the show-starting “Bulletproof.” By the following “You & I,” Shaw had shed his leather jacket, his long-limbed frame stretching to encourage a call and response from the capacity crowd and getting it.
It wasn’t rock star bluster. Shaw seemed genuinely intent on connecting and staying connected, spending much of the night engaging with his fans from end to end, descending into the photo pit, and even joining the masses for a dance or two. He wasn’t the only one. His mates free to move- saxophonist Rob Ingraham and trumpeter/keyboardist Michael Girardot- joined him in going mobile, including a three-part harmony around a single mic for a hushed “King of What.”
Whether the slow and dreamy takes on “Monster” and “Fade Away,” or the reverberating psych-ballad “Need You,” with pedal steel wah-wah from Ed Williams, the unhurried, groovier entries played as contrast to a slew of jump-up, downbeat rockers in between. Chart-topper “Wish I Knew” had all the hands waving in the air, and again after Shaw asked, “Who’s ready?” before launching the funkified force of “Stand Up.”
Mixing in the spacey sublime of heavier cuts such as “Amber” and “Pretty Photograph” with the lighter “Catching Fireflies” and the Bourbon Street stroll of “Got Love,” the band was nimbly able to blend mid-‘90s alt-rock implications with Crescent City soul. Shaw’s rapid fire delivery on the closing “All in the Family” gave him another opportunity to climb into the crowd. Called back for an encore, they tackled The Bee Gees “To Love Somebody,” then “It Was a Sin,” with the horn men flanking Shaw in the pit. Back on the boards for the finale, rolling drums signaled “Criminal,” with Shaw emoting one last time, on his knees in the shadows of the footlights behind him.
The sell-out was a pleasant surprise, as Shaw noted in his thanks, and, as anyone’s guess, provided plenty of inspiration for the group. Yet, it’s easy to imagine that an open and animated performance like this one is the norm for The Revivalists. Titans like Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam set a pretty high bar for inclusion, managing to make arena audiences feel as close as their counterparts at a club. As their popularity grows, that will be a similar challenge for The Revivalists; to stay just as connected to their loyal following as it, too, expands.
About midway through the set, Shaw turned loose his hair- from tightly-tied bun to free-flowing curly mane, and went back to the prowl, back into the throng. In a way, it played as a metaphor for a group turned loose, as well. Consider the challenge, for this night in Hollywood, conquered.