Photo by Bill Kelly
While they’ve been around for ten years now, The Revivalists’ rise has felt relatively meteoric over the last couple of years, stemming from the release of their 2015 record Men Amongst Mountains, and on a beautiful night in the middle of Central Park, the New Orleans ensemble cemented their newfound status with a powerhouse performance at SummerStage, filled with uplifting jams and sing-alongs, to an overflowing crowd.
White Denim played support for the evening, and any people in the crowd expecting something in line with The Revivalists’ pop sensibilities were left with their jaws on the floor as the Austin, Texas foursome delivered their fiery brand of virtuosic psychedelic garage rock, aided by a surprise appearance from Eric Krasno on guitar for a couple of songs (he would later join the night’s headliners for the performance of their breakout hit “Wish I Knew You”).
Still, it was clear, who most of the audience came there to see, and as the sun set and the sizeable crowd grew into a sea of bodies filling nearly every crevice from the front rail to the exits, the anticipation for The Revivalists’ arrival became palpable. As soon as the 7-piece band arrived on stage, the party started. Opening with recent live staple “You and I,” they were ready to ride a wave of energy that propelled them through the night. Frontman David Shaw, not wasting a minute, worked the stage like a master, making his to each corner, crouching down at the lip and reaching his hand out to the adoring fans clustered up front, all while delivering smooth and sexy vocals on songs like “Stand Up” and “BTBD.” By the eighth song of the set, he had made his way into the crowd, perhaps so as to feel their love with even greater force.
While Shaw might be the group’s passionate leader, as a whole they are a true instrumental force to be reckoned with, and while the jams they’d sporadically embark on gave members a chance to show their prowess, it’s really within the nuances of the songs that their might is most experienced. In particular, the way Rob Ingraham and Ed Williams, playing saxophone and pedal steel respectively, accent each tune and play around Shaw’s melodies, taking what could be simple pop songs and lending them a more intriguing texture. The innate chemistry between the musicians allowed each stylistic change of pace to feel natural, from the gentle acoustic “Strawman,” to the heavy riffs of Bulletproof and the slinky groove of “Upright.”
The band has a tendency to make liberal use of anthemic moments, which at times felt exhausting, with almost half the songs they played feeling as though they could close the set. Still the band is just so damn likable, and the crowd so thoroughly into their performance, that it’s easy to let yourself be swept up in the joy of it all, and when Shaw and the horn players leaped into the crowd during “It Was A Sin,” or when he sank to his knees and wailed at the climax of “Fade Away,” their anthemic disposition felt visceral and earned. The wild applause that sent them home only sealed the deal.