Show Review: Keaton Simons with Curtis Peoples and Whitney Nichole at Hotel Utah, 4/13/2011

by Stacy Scales on April 15, 2011

Keaton Simons at the Hotel Cafe in LA

Keaton Simons has a degree in ethnomusicology (the study of world music). Curtis Peoples calls his style of music “coffee shop/arena rock.” At first glance, these two may seem an odd pair for a mid-week one-night stint at the Hotel Utah. The truth is, though, that the two have been friends (and sharing stages) for years. Both are LA-based singer/songwriters with mostly acoustic sets and guitars, sprinkled with a little piano here and there, and both have been so hard at work on new albums that neither has been to the Bay Area in at least a year. And both have fans that were happy to skip the Giants game in favor of a night’s worth of their music.

The night began with opener Whitney Nichole, whose 4-person band consisted of a cello, keyboards, and some really gorgeous harmony between Whitney and her sister. A local girl, Whitney plays San Francisco venues with some regularity to promote her album 100 Strong, just released this past January. Highlights from her set included “Taken,” an untitled song, and a gorgeous cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Up next was Curtis, whose set was laced with familiar songs from his self-titled album and new tunes, starting with “Back Where I Started.” After new song “Everybody Loves You,” he paused to admit that the last time he’d performed at the Utah he’d been the last billed and drinking the entire time his fellows were onstage. This is the beauty of Curtis Peoples: no one will ever heckle him, because he has the good humor to do it to himself. After “Exit Scene,” “Rooftop,” and “Tell Me I’m Wrong,” another new one called “Cry for You” struck me as particularly sensitive and sweet (exactly his vibe). The story he told was that it was written for a friend who lived through “the worst year possible,” and about wanting to hug her/be there for her. His set wrapped with “Wake Up” (which he cowrote with Simons), “Afraid,” and crowd favorite “All I Want.”

As he prepared to leave the stage, ever-polite Peoples thanked the crowd for coming, admitting that one of the dangers of staying away from a city for so long is that you risk fans forgetting about you. As he acknowledged those that had come out, one girl shouted “never gonna happen!” I suspect she’s right.

Headliner Keaton Simons tried to write a setlist before taking the stage, but was essentially just using it as an inspirational guide. He didn’t plan to sing all the songs he wrote down (see picture), and didn’t perform them in order, either. The truth is, Keaton’s kind of a human jukebox, and you don’t even need a quarter. As long as he’s in the mood (and especially if it’s one of his own songs), you can probably get him to sing whatever you’d like. More than once I’ve even seen him sitting around a venue after a show with friends and/or fans, guitar in hand, singing just about anything someone has asked to hear. (To that end, the addition of “Broken White Lines” to this particular night’s list was at my behest.)

The "setlist" Keaton Simons used for inspiration

His set started with “Mama Song,” followed by a bit of his throat singing, which cannot be described except to say that it’s unreal and unbelievably cool, especially if you know how difficult it is to do. New song “Hearts Don’t Break Themselves” was particularly enjoyable, as was old fave “Currently” and the aforementioned “Broken White Lines,” which hadn’t yet been given its name the last time I saw him perform it.

“Without Your Skin” is one of Keaton’s most beloved tunes…there’s no other way to say it: it’s a sexy song. “Just Feel Right” is “really super duper new…a last weeker,” Keaton says. For “Unstoppable,” Curtis joined him onstage, singing the harmony for the chorus. I have to admit: this is one of my favorite of Keaton’s songs, and I’ve never enjoyed it quite as much as this performance; Curtis definitely added a new depth to it. New song “Inspiration,” which Keaton co-wrote with Tyler Hilton hits home for anyone struggling with creativity: “if you wanna find inspiration….let it find you.”

A bit of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” led to “Beautiful Pain,” followed by “Masterpiece” (co-written with Josh Kelley) with bits of Peoples’ “All I Want,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On,” and Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” all thrown in for good measure. New song “Thrill of it All” is evidently quite personal; its lyrics refer to “making windows out of solid walls.” As the night neared a close, Keaton called Curtis back to the stage. Curtis declined the opportunity to sing a Beatles cover, but Whitney joined him instead for “Blackbird.” Peoples did, however, return to add harmony to the final song. Before they began, Keaton pointed out that he was finally picking up “Curtis’s style:” skinny jeans. Curtis’s reply? The secret is, apparently, to “never work out your legs and only eat on Wednesdays.” With that, they closed the show with a rockin’ new song they wrote together, “The Medicine.”

As I left, I realized to my relief that it was a Wednesday. Otherwise, I might have lost sleep over the thought of poor, sweet, skinny Curtis Peoples going to bed hungry in a strange city.


Curtis Peoples set list from the Hotel Utah, 4/13/2011

Stacy Scales

California native. Therapist. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andi Galusha August 25, 2011 at 8:05 am

LOL! I loved this article! The pictures of the set lists were a nice touch.


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