Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
here's no doubt that Morgan Wade has the songs – a lot of them – to go with her singing. There's far more to this singer than "Wilder Days," the excellent closer of the night and the song that put her on the musical map as an indie artist in 2021.
Try on opener numbers "Don't Cry" and "Last Cigarette" and later on, "The Night (Part 2)" and the sad sounding solo acoustic and most country song of the set, "Crossing State Lines," as proof positive. Wade could not be accused of too many feel good songs, not when shattered relations, suicidal thoughts and addictive needs are part the equation.
That wasn't the problem for heavily tattooed Virginia native. She may have sung about the down-and-out tough times that were so relatable on the face of it.
But it was the relatability in performing the songs that fell short. There seemed to be a disconnect between the songs and Wade singing them. For a good portion of the 75-minute show, it felt like Wade just happened to be singing the songs – difficult as they are on paper - without really inhabiting them.
There were a few brief words here and there, an occasional smile towards a band member, but no sense of joy or ownership. And did Wade really need to prove her Boston bona fides by trolling in the overworn ritual of visiting artists by donning a Red Sox jersey along with knocking the New York Yankees (that didn't take a whole of guts) before an extended and well-done version of "Met You."
Wade may be yet another singer being marketed out of Nashville, but like many others, Wade and her backing trio seemed more content to rock out. And that her lead guitarist did with the same amount of drive that Wade seemed to lack. They all had a chance to turn it up a notch on the curiously chosen cover of Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl." Wade offered a good cover, but the poppy song seemed a bit out of place compared to the rest of the songs.
Wade is not a feel good artist. No surprise given the heavy subject matter. One suspects that the songs aren't necessarily pure fiction. Perhaps as hard as they may be to sing, a little more heart and soul from Wade would go far.
Kaitlin Butts was the anti-Wade in some respects. Appearing solo acoustic, Butts knew her way around traditional country songs not only with her look, but more importantly with her songs.
Butts, an indie artist based in Nashville, was more than willing to share a few stories including an extended one about a relative, who endured drug problems as a youth. Some of Butts' stories, such as this one, were not exactly uplifting, but she made sure to keep her cup half full and gave encouragement to those facing issues.
The contrast in engagement between headliner and opener was palpable.