The Pour House
There was a buzz at Pour House on Friday evening, just before showtime. Some attendees had seen headlining singer/guitarist Anders Osborne in New Orleans before and knew what was in store. Others came based solely on the rabid recommendations of those already initiated.
"I've been touring for 25 years, but somehow I've never been here," said Osborne to his appreciative crowd. He did play Charleston once before, at a wedding years ago, but that didn't explain the 150-plus enthusiastic fans who came out on Friday. Despite a long career, it's only in the last two years that the New Orleans guitarist has made his name as a solo artist outside of Cajun country.
But the word's out. Osborne took the stage just after midnight with a simple power-rock trio, relying on intricate interplay between his wailing Fender Stratocaster and bassist Carl Dufrene's heavy hybrid of rhythm and melody. After two songs, notable Charleston musicians in the audience who were catching their first glimpse of Osborne stood open-mouthed. And Osborne hadn't even busted out the slide yet. His ability to finger chords minus his pinky finger (leaving it available to interlace slide licks into the pockets in the rhythm ) was most impressive.
Osborne's originals were bluesy and straight-forward, helped along by his clear, distinctly clean singing. After about six lengthy rock songs, he surprised the audience by excitedly calling for local band Sol Driven Train's horn section, saxophonist Russell Clark and trombonist Ward Buckheister. The two bands connected at last week's LEAF, through Sol Driven's friendship with Osborne's sometime-bandmate Tab Benoit.
"The band keeps growing!" exclaimed Osborne, introducing opener Devon Allman, who stuck around for a few songs, including taking lead on "One Way Out." The audience's enthusiastic reaction to that cover hinted that many had indeed come out for Allman, a regular in Charleston. But the song's highlights were the play between Osborne, Dufrene, and the horn section.
Allman's opening set, in fact, fell relatively flat. There are plenty of cases of talented children of famous folks who well-deserve the attention they receive, but if Devon weren't Gregg's son, it's difficult to think that he'd have much of a career playing these songs.
Osborne never showed signs of holding back. After two songs, the band was drenched in sweat. The frontman shed layers during the show, striking wide footed rock-star chances that only a real talent can pull off without appearing contrived.
Osborne and company tore through a two hour set that ended precisely at 2 a.m. with "Louisiana Rain," a fitting thought, considering the current flooding in the Bayou State.
Most of the crowd, even the Allman fans, made it until the end. And chances are, even those previously unfamiliar with Osborne will be preaching his gospel to their friends the next time he visits. Hopefully, it won't take 25 years.