Back in eighth grade, I was real hardcore. I listened to awesome deathly wannabe-edgy emo bands like From First to Last, Aiden and Chiodos, and my first mosh pit was at a Silverstein concert at the Rave.
Thank God I’ve completely altered my musical taste.
But it was Thursday night, third row at the Pabst, watching Joshua Radin unplug his guitar and belt out mellow melodies without a microphone, when I realized just how much I’ve changed.
An acoustic folk singer who has released three albums since starting his career in 2004, Radin’s songs are probably best known in the context of where you heard them: onscreen. Having achieved placements in shows like “Scrubs,” “Brothers and Sisters,” “90210” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” Radin is one of the many artists whose songs get wide exposure, usually without his name explicitly attached.
I was a fan of Radin before hitting the Pabst last week, but hearing Radin’s voice live took it to a whole new level. His soft, gentle tone is enough to lure you in initially, but his genuine, simply lyrics seem to fit flawlessly when he’s right in front of you.
Preceding Radin were two opening acts, starting with Dutch singer-songwriter Laura Jansen, followed by indie rock singer/songwriter Cary Brothers. Jansen previously toured with Radin in 2008, and was invited to return as an opening act for his current “The Rock and The Tide” tour. Brothers’ connection to Radin, on the other hand, goes way back—later in the concert, Radin told the story of recording his first track ever, in Brothers’ bedroom.
Stories like that were a staple of Radin’s set, which wove songs old and new amid intimate conversations with his audience.
He told us the story of two of his married friends, who were having trouble conceiving a child: Since his music always got them “in the mood,” they asked if he would write a “baby-makin’ song” to help them out. One segue later, “You Got What I Need” was next on the set list.
One story was particularly flattering to the audience. Radin said the Pabst was his favorite venue to perform in, and when he was told the theater wasn’t available the night he had planned to come into town, he rebooked his entire tour so he could be able to get here to play.
Radin said he knew Milwaukee would be the best show of the tour, and thanked us for our support not only of him, but of live music in general.
By the end of the show, my expectations were completely blown away. I haven’t stopped listening to his music since that night, and whenever I do, I realize that I’m listening with new ears.
Forget the mosh-pits and the scary emo crowds, and lead me instead to the mellow, gentle-voiced and musically inspiring man sporting flannel and an acoustic guitar.