You never know what you’re going to get when a well-known Hollywood actor decides to pursue their dream of becoming a rock star. Kevin Bacon, Jared Leto, Eddie Murphy, Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves, David Duchovny and countless others have all given it a go, some with a modicum of success, and others, well, not so much. So It goes without saying that I approached Kiefer Sutherland‘s sold-out show Wednesday night at the legendary Antone’s in Austin, Texas with a bit of trepidation. I must say that I wasn’t expecting much. I’m very happy to report, however, that my worries were unfounded. The man is pretty damn good.
Yes, his band is tight, that much can be expected. But what really sold Sutherland’s performance was his humble passion. At one point early in his set, he said:” I’m not one much for giving advice.. but if I were, this would be it. Life’s too short to not do something you love!” He continually thanked the audience throughout the evening for letting him play for them. There was no sense of entitlement, instead just a musician grateful for the opportunity to play his songs.
I had read interviews from last year where he claimed a lack of confidence in his songwriting and performing. If that is true, none of that was evident this night. He approached the mic with gusto and strummed his guitar with bravado and force. Maybe he was acting. If so, it was an award-winning performance.
Kiefer has long been a musician. He has only recently decided to truly pursue it. This is actually Sutherland’s second time through Austin, having played the 310 ACL Live almost exactly one year ago. Throughout the evening, he had some impressive guitar work proving that this shift in careers isn’t just a whim, but a long-time passion.
His music is a blending of Americana, alt-country and traditional country, played with a rocking edge. His voice displays a raspy blues baritone with an air of authenticity. You believe what he is singing.
KIEFER SUTHERLAND PHOTO GALLERY
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Sutherland has pulled together some wonderful musicians, creating a top-notch band who perfectly complemented the songs. They were on fire all evening and seemed genuinely happy to be there. Jess Calcaterra and bassist Joseph DeLeo held down the rhythm while guitarist Austin Vallejo provided the driving force on guitar. Michael Gurley was on lead guitar, his cowboy hat drawn down sharply over his eyes.
The hour and a half set featured a variety of styles from driving country-tinged rockers to soul-stirring ballads, and liberally sprinkled with well-chosen cover tunes that meshed amazingly well with Keifer’s originals.
Throughout he would humbly speak about the songs and how he came to write them, or he would speak of why he chose the covers he played and the influence of that artist on his own life and music. These intimate asides allowed the audience a real glimpse into the heart of a man most knew only from the screen.
They started the show rocking with the rollicking “Run to Him,” Sutherland taking the mic backed by stellar guitar work from both Gurley and Vallejo. Highlights included “Reckless & Me” with Gurley’s beautiful slide work complementing Sutherland’s poignant vocals; the rocking “Going Home” and its climactic finish leading into the tender ballad “I’ll Do Anything;” and the hard-driving “Down in a Hole” which featured a blistering guitar duel.
The band really showed its stuff on the covers. While the late Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” remained true in its traditional country stylings, it displayed a power that was a joy to listen to, and they absolutely tore up Tom Petty’s “Honeybee.”
They finished the evening with a three-song encore that featured a new rocking track “Agave,” and closed with Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” While it is a bit of a cliched choice, the joy in Keifer’s performance made it special.
It was a strong end to a solid evening. It was a night full of realness, with no gimmicks and no Hollywood pretension. Just good music from a stellar band and a true singer/songwriter. I believe that this guy just might make it someday.
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Macon, Georgia singer-songwriter Rick Brantley opened the show. Brantley’s Southern charm, strong vocals, and rhythmic guitar playing quickly won over the audience and had them singing along, hooting and hollering. He played a mixture of strong acoustic numbers with some fun-styled material – including a sing-along sex song with a verse about sister’s webcam shenanigans – that made for a strong opening set.