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Hayes does it his way

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, November 30, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

To say that this was not your typical Hunter Hayes outing would be a huge understatement. This was just Hayes out on his own (for the most part). No band. A set list with flexibility in taking a few random audience requests. "This is not how I normally do this," Hayes announced.

As Hayes said at the outset of the 1 3/4-hour show leading off with "Wild Blue, "we're going to fuck it up tonight." Well, not really. Yes, a very occasional hitting the wrong pedal, but for the most part Hayes did it his way.

Hayes was mainly on acoustic guitar, though he played some electric, piano and even had a stint on the drums. He also set up some loops with guitar, percussion and more on a number of the songs, but this was all live. Hayes told the crowd at one point that nothing was pre-recorded. A musician can create a very full-sounding "band" with a little help from technology.

Hayes mixes up a soulful sound with more of a pop edge. He was never a country traditionalist. And the crowd – overwhelmingly female – was happy to help sing along, perhaps never more so than on the closing song of the night, the hit "Wanted" where he left the piano for the center of the stage to act as conductor to a crowd that was not in need.

It also helped that he played songs that worked with his format including the uptempo, more rocking "Storm Warning."

It was easy to see why Hayes has maintained a loyal fan base over the years (in fact, Hayes last played this particular venue nine years ago when he set a Guinness Book of World Records by playing 10 concerts in 24 hours to promote his brand new CD, "Storyline"). When you have songs that really speak to people like "Invisible" and "Dear God" with the chorus "And why does my life have to hurt so much? / Why can't I find any peace or love? / And why do I feel like I'm not enough? / Dear God, are you sure that you don't mess up?"

The solo show gave the very down to earth Hayes the chance to expound upon the story behind songs with Hayes positive that his label would have no interest in even releasing "Dear God" on the album "Wild Blue." He was dead wrong, he acknowledged, because Warner Nashville put it out as the first song.

Hayes was helped out on a few songs by a guitarist as Hayes said he needed some modicum of help, but for the most part this was Hayes doing what he wanted and how he wanted. That left both the artist and audience happy. You can't argue with that.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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