It’s not unusual to hear an artist nail it on an EP or LP but fumble when performing live. Lee MacDougall is NOT one of these artists. From the moment he opened his mouth on the stage at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville, he gave us the very same vocals, dynamics, range, and wit that we found in his EP, If Walls Could Talk. I’d love to just make my way down the set list and delve into every song, but in the interest of time, I’ll just focus on some of the highlights from the show.
To open the show, Lee started with Falling in Love for the First Time, which showcased his impressive range. Much of the song featured his falsetto, which was just as strong and true in a live setting as it is on the recordings. To separate his live performances, he played a little bit with the rhythm, giving the audience something new and fresh. After he finished the song, he leapt right into story time, in which he professed that he often wants to call his mom to come get him during times of distress–never mind the fact that she lives thousands of miles away, with an ocean between them.
His mom was apparently the inspiration behind the next tune he performed, which was This Is My Story. When I talked to Lee before the show, he mentioned that this particular song is the most autobiographical, and I could see how much he meant that when he sang it. Tender notes were given the respect they deserved rather than Lee attacking everything in full voice for the benefit of a live audience. While I missed some of the backing vocals found on the record, I was still quite impressed with the amount of music he produced with just his voice and guitar. When he finished, I realized that he bowed after the first and second song–something he continued to do throughout the show, reminding me very much of the Beatles and other British Invasion bands. It was a wonderful sign of respect and gratitude toward the audience.
When he launched into The Star Hotel, which is one of his rock tunes, I expected a nice, acoustic version. What Lee gave me was the same energy, sound, and attitude, with so much music that he was like a whole rock band wrapped up in one person. It was truly amazing how magnetic he was, especially since he was alone on the big, new stage at 3rd and Lindsley.
Of course, Lee then managed to bring it down a notch with his tender ballad, Hindsight, before moving into an acoustic version of Joanna and a few songs that weren’t on the EP. I’m told they’re on the upcoming album, which makes me anxious to own it and add to my playlists. Finally, he started the opening chords of She, which is one of my favorites from the EP. I did miss the piano and the backing vocals, but he really pulled it off on his own, maintaining the doowop feel with inventive percussion. The song still remains my favorite.
After hearing him live, I’m forced to admit that Lee MacDougall has cemented himself among my favorites, and that list includes some pretty heavy hitters. I’m not the type to follow a singer across the country, but I’d certainly be willing to travel to hear him again. As it is, I can’t wait for his next tour. You can still check him out if he hasn’t hit your city yet. His tour schedule is posted on his website, so look for the show nearest you.
Photo credit: MD Laidlaw