oah Kahan sings about his emotional issues – a lot – especially in a song called "Growing Sideways," which details his time in therapy as a very young person. He also touches upon mental health topics with "Your Needs, My Needs," which mentions the medication Zoloft by name, and "Call Your Mom" that speaks to suicide prevention. Most all Kahan songs are sung in the first person, as he mainly vocalizes about himself and his various emotional challenges. So, when he brought these self-centered songs to Los Angeles, where individualistic narcissism occurs in nearly epidemic proportions, it was a little bit like the perfect storm. This sold-out crowd sang along with every word, almost as though they were having a communal therapy session together.
Some of Kahan's recordings feature banjo and mandolin, giving them a strong Americana feel, and the singer/songwriter even had the wisdom to cover Jason Isbell's "Vampires" (although he didn't sing that one tonight). Thus, a Kahan live show sure looked promising – at least on paper.
However, Kahan's live music sounds closer to Mumford & Sons, with just a tad bit of Dave Matthews mixed in vocally. He's a good, but not great singer, and his songs tend to all blend together after a while. The popular song, "Dial Drunk," which Kahan pre-announced as a composition about a "drunk asshole," went over well, and when Lizzy McAlpine made a surprise guest appearance to sing a duet on "Call Your Mom," it certainly boosted the energy in the house. With that said, though, if you weren't already a fan, you probably felt a little bit like an outsider that even a house full of energized Kahan fanatics couldn't fix.
Opener Joy Oladokun was actually a far more engaging performer. Whether she belted out a few of the lines on "Sweet Symphony," a ballad she'd recorded with Chris Stapleton, or got Weezer-ly nerdy with the rocker "We're All Going To Die," Oladokun packed her set with plenty of sonic variety. She even included a credible cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man." She mixed in sincere spoken song introductions with a quick sense of humor, which only made us want to hear more from her.
Kahan has created a strong bond with his devoted audience. The jury is still out, though, on whether or not he'll be able to widen this circle.