Of all of the LA-based singer-songwriters I enjoy seeing live, Tony Lucca is perhaps my favorite. While his peers seem content to bask in the sun, studio, or local LA venues, Tony faithfully treks up to the Bay to play for his “neighbors” on a regular basis. Furthermore, his show is sure to be a crowd pleaser, as he’s literally got something for everyone. Face-melting vocals? Check. Sincere, relatable, clever lyrics? Check. Rockin’ guitar skills? Check. Wit and charm to spare? Check. Former-Mousketeer good looks? Check.
Wait. What? Yes, you read that right, so let’s get it out of the way now: as a teenager, Tony was part of the Disney Channel’s MMC cast, alongside the other smiling faces of Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Timberlake. As an adult, however, he’s been steadily working as a solo artist since 1997. Since 2006’s Canyon Songs, he has toured steadily, sharing the stage with other talents like Tyrone Wells, Keaton Simons, Curtis Peoples, and most recently, Matt Duke and Jay Nash (with whom he released the excellent TFDI EP).
Last night’s performance at Café du Nord began with opening act (and birthday boy) Joey Ryan, whose singing voice sounds a bit like Paolo Nutini’s. Joey’s deadpan humor had us chuckling, but for the first time in years I noticed that a hush had literally come over the crowd – no small feat for a mid-week show at a bar in our fair city. The highlight (for me, at least) of his set was a song about California, a lyrical journey through the state with a chorus that insists, “California, you’re the place for me.” As he wrapped up his set, Joey insisted he’d send a free song to all who signed up for his mailing list at joeyryan.net, and then cleared out to make room for Mr. Lucca.
While he regularly performs alone with his guitar, the addition of a drummer and a bassist made this Tony’s first headlining tour with a full band. The set began with “Like Love,” “Long Love Letter,” and “Anchored” from his recent album, Rendezvous with the Angels, followed by “Givin’ it all Away” and a cover of Ray LaMontagne’s “Jolene” before the night’s first morsel of Tony’s humor: a perfect cover of viral sensation Antoine Dodson’s “Bed Intruder.” (For which Tony has already gained notoriety, at least among his fans – just before it began, a fan shouted a request from the crowd: “bed intruder!!”)
As his band mates took a breather, Tony treated the crowd to songs from his Solo collection, the album aptly named to reflect Tony’s voice with only a piano and/or a guitar, available as a free download on Amazon.com. (“Fight Song,” which he insists is for those who have no fight song of their own, and “Take Me Home,” which he wrote with the help of a “bad ass bus driver” from a recent tour, respectively.)
When the boys rejoined him on-stage, they quickly launched into crowd favorite “Death of Me,” and the sweet but sad “So Long” (both from his Canyon Songs album), followed by the ironic and beautiful “Melancholy Collar,” which he admitted was written the day after his 21st birthday’s foray into psychedelic mushrooms. A well-placed bit of The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why” woven into Come Around Again’s “Pretty Things” had the crowd eating out of his hand before he finished off the set with “Foxy Jane,” into which he expertly introduced Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” with an uncanny Stevie-like wail, claiming he’d give us a last “little bit of Detroit” – his hometown.
The crowd not yet ready to leave, Tony returned to tell a story of life in his band in 1993. They played a show in “San Francisco” (Dublin, in actuality), for approximately 4000 people. He recalls knowing in that moment that he would try to recreate the sensation he experienced there for the rest of his life. Now nearly two decades later, though we weren’t anywhere near 4000 in number, he thanked the crowd for coming out to see him anyway before launching into the appropriately-titled autobiographical “True Story.”
I know for sure that I’m not the only huge fan of Tony Lucca’s music that was in the crowd last night. I also know that there were at least a small handful of young ladies in attendance because they remember him from his Disney days. But of one thing I’m certain, and it has to be said: while they might have arrived hoping to see a boy from MMC, they left loving Tony Lucca the solo singer.
Tony Lucca’s setlist.