Review by Harry Kaplan
It was a horrible evening in Annapolis, weather wise. There was torrential rain, thunder, and lightning. Considering the lousy weather, there was a very good turnout to see both performers. Not only was the crowd large, it was extremely enthusiastic for both acts. Those who braved the weather were rewarded with one of the best concerts I have seen in many a fortnight.
Robbie opened the show and played for over an hour. He and his fiddle player, Shad Cobb, were completely captivating. Robbie told stories between songs with a good dose of education and humor. Shad is a master on the fiddle and is the perfect harmonizer with Robbie. The two voices blend beautifully.
Not only is Robbie a fantastic guitar player, his voice is very pleasing and incredibly strong. He can belt out those notes and hold them forever. He played a well balanced set list of both older and newer songs.
He played a couple of songs of his 2016 release, Upland Stories that were jaw dropping. Sarah Jane and Fare Thee Well, Carolina Gals were incredibly moving. Of course Robbie told stories about these songs that gave us insight into the song writing process. He is also an expert story teller with great charisma in front of a crowd and audience. Selfishly, I could have watched another hour of Robbie and Shad.
There was no time to think about that. AJ Croce entered the stage not more than five or ten minutes after Robbie and Shad departed. I thought that was incredibly considerate of AJ, thinking about the audience. That shows his lack of an ego even though he certainly has the talent and flair to pull it off. Another genuinely nice fella that was truly grateful for all the folks that came out to see him.
AJ did not disappoint. He is a master on the piano and incorporates elements of blues, jazz, soul, and rock and roll into his songs and performances. If I had to venture a swag as to who AJ is aligned with musically, I would have to say a cross between Joe Cocker and Ray Charles.
He also played a nice mix of old and new songs, including some nice tracks off his brand new album, Just Like Medicine. There were a couple of songs that Robbie and Shad accompanied AJ on, but mainly it was just AJ singing behind the keys of the piano or playing guitar.
AJ’s style is so electric that he doesn’t really need any accompanying players to make a really big sound. He also encouraged the audience to yell out requests. That is not something you see all too often.
Most performers have a very rigid set list and do not stray very much from that list. AJ is not one of those performers, at all. He is so talented and loose that he can play songs on the fly, a true testament to his musicianship. As I stated with Robbie and Shad, I could have listened to AJ for another hour at least. I am not complaining at all. This was a perfect evening with three amazing musicians and performers.