Show Review: Javier Colon with Reed Waddle at The Uptown Theatre Napa, 3/4/2012

by Stacy Scales on March 5, 2012

The stage before the show, and before the "no photos" policy was announced (and enforced)

Let’s talk for a minute about NBC’s The Voice. Last April, when it premiered after much hype, I was really excited to check it out. For anyone who isn’t familiar, the premise of the show is that undiscovered musical talents audition for four current musicians, in hopes that their vocals alone will convince one (or more) of them to coach them through the rest of the competition. They call it a “blind” audition because all four coaches (Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Cee-Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton) sit with their backs to the stage, unable to see the performer at all. It sounds like a great concept, right? True, I always point out that there’s a little bit of a fallacy here, since it is a TV show, and someone’s doing the casting, so while it’s true that the coaches don’t see who the voice is coming out of before signing on to work with them, it’s not entirely true that how a performer looks isn’t taken into consideration at all.

Anyway, last year it was really fun to watch, because after you get past the fact that almost all of the performers look commercial enough to make it in the industry, you start to get sucked into the untapped talent – in my case, I was especially rooting for Team Adam, as Mr. Levine has a knack for picking the artists I liked the best. In the end, my favorite guy won. His name is Javier Colon, and truth be told, I haven’t heard much about him since he won. So believe me, I was excited to see him when I saw that he was playing the Uptown Theatre in Napa last night.

(One last side note about The Voice, because I can’t help myself: if you’re not watching this season, you’re missing out. I say that with a boat-load of bias, but it’s also true. I’m probably the only one that remembers this, but my very first piece for Spinning Platters was a review of one of my favorite singer-songwriters, named Tony Lucca. This year, he’s not only a contest on The Voice, but he’s on Team Adam. I can’t wait to see him excel, and hopefully win!)

The show opened with Reed Waddle, of whom I’d never heard, solo with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. The first song he played was called “Worn Out Shoes,” and I was immediately caught up in what he does. He has a bluesy sound balanced perfectly with his acoustic guitar talents, and a smooth voice; I noticed right off the bat how easily he filled up the room, even standing alone on a big empty stage. After the first song, he introduced himself, saying that he was from Florida, and adding that they “like wine there, too.” After “Colors Come Through,” he played the sexy, falsetto-tinged “Lay Your Body Down,” during which someone in the crowd “WOO!”‘d at him, and not only did he laugh in a humble aw, shucks manner, but he admitted to blushing, which I could even see from several rows back.

Reed explained that while he now lives in Brooklyn, he spent time in Colorado, where part of his soul still lives. The next song, “Velveteen Skies,” he explained was “for anyone who’s gone somewhere to find themselves.” The bluesy harmonica in it was particularly pretty. He then told the audience that he had CDs for sale in the lobby, saying “you don’t have to buy one…but it’d be cool if you do. You don’t have to…but it’d be cool if you did.” The next song, he said, was “for if you’ve ever had a humpty dumpty moment in your life,” and it was called “Piece by Piece.” After, he thanked the crowd for being such a great audience, and then played “Lovers and Strangers,” to which the audience clapped along, seeming to be really enjoying him (I know I did). As he left, he repeated his name as lesser-known musicians so often do, saying it was “Reed like a blade of grass, Waddle like a duck.” Check him out – he was really great! (And yes, Reed – I bought a CD. Isn’t that cool?)

Sorry for the promo shot - I tried to respect the "no photos" policy!

Before too long, Javier took to the stage. The minute he was visible to the crowd (before he got to the mic) he shouted, “what’s up, guys?!” Right away I liked his approachable, unassuming demeanor. He said he was happy to be in Napa, and someone in the crowd answered that she was excited, to which he said, “I’m excited that you’re excited! But you don’t know what we’re about to do!” After struggling to decide which song to do first, he decided to start with one from a little-known EP, he said. That brought a cheer from the crowd, so he added, “maybe not so little-known in Napa!” The song, “When,” was a great way to start his set – anyone who doesn’t know what they’re in for with Javier Colon figures it out quickly. This man can sing the way so few can: it’s effortless, beautiful, and riveting to watch. Even better, he not only really enjoys himself onstage and is comfortable in his skin, but it’s pretty clear even early on that he genuinely wants everyone else to have as much fun as he does. Right away, his talent gave me a shiver. He is simply unforgettable, and his voice sublime. I couldn’t wait to see what else he’d sing for us.

Javier spoke a little about the band, calling them “my guys” and explaining how nice it was to have friends hang out on stage with him, other than the “three of you who have seen me before.” He mentioned a new album, from which he sang the next song, “Happy Sinner.” He asked the crowd for help on the next tune, the first of several brilliant covers, which was Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” I love this song, and I’ve heard many an artist sing it. But I have to say, hearing Javier sing it live was perhaps the most memorable version of it since Lloyd Dobler with the boombox.

He started to notice the enthusiasm of the crowd, calling us a “rowdy bunch,” and admitting that he didn’t think ‘rowdy’ when he came to Napa. He continued with a story about a trip with his bandmates to Taylor Guitars in El Cajon (San Diego, for those not familiar), explaining what a great time they’d had seeing how the guitars are made and the photos on the walls of other artists Taylor sponsors. When he saw a picture of Taylor Swift, one of her songs got stuck in his head, and stayed there “on repeat” – he just couldn’t get it out. He said that he loves that she wrote it for the haters who talk trash, and that as a dad, he felt sort of proud of her standing up for herself in such a way. In an attempt to “get it out of his system,” he then sang a bit of the song, “Mean,” saying “I love that song!” and then apologizing to those who’d leave that night with it in their own heads.

He then began talking about his new album, saying he loved the message of it. He knows everyone’s been through a lot of hard times, and things we’d rather not go through in life. Maybe, he thinks, it would help to know there’s someone not very far away next to us going through something similar. “If everyone going through something would raise their hand, we’d be able to deal better,” he said, leading into his song “Raise Your Hand.” During this performance, I did in fact notice a smattering of raised hands throughout the audience, which I found charming. Next Javier asked if anyone in the crowd was with someone they’d been with for a long time who hadn’t yet popped the question. A few responded yes, but to Javier’s disappointment, neither guy was in attendance for him to make fun of. “When you have a good woman in your life, you gotta go for it, just commit. When you know, you know.” He explained that he met his wife in college, and they were married by the time they were nineteen and twenty (fourteen years ago). He said it was awesome, and that he felt as though “life didn’t start until their life together started,” and when they had kids (two little girls, to whom he referred many times throughout his set). The next song, “Stand Up and Man Up,” was about making the leap to marriage when you just know it’s right. During it, a guy in the front row was up dancing, and Javier stooped to give him a high five.

It’s hard to miss Javier’s bassist, Chris “Big Sexy,” while he’s performing. He’s the kind of guy who moves all around, shaking his booty, his head, and essentially everything his mama gave him. He’s a joy to watch, and the nickname is well-earned. Javier explained that Big Sexy has a lot of fans, but that when they first started playing together, Javier didn’t know “he did that.” During one song, there was a ton of applause, and he thought it was for him. When he turned around, he said Chris was “like, on the floor,” and then he understood the applause.

Realizing that he had accidentally skipped a song he wanted to play, Javier explained that it’s one he wrote for his wife years back, after he lost his record deal, and they began to fear for their financial situation. He said that he’d had faith in himself, but that the future of the music business was scary. Apparently, they had a big argument, but he said, “I know I can do this. I need this break, and I can’t do it without you.” When asking her to continue to stand by him, his sentiment was essentially “I promise one day I’ll come through for you.” The song and the album are both titled “Come Through for You,” as he admits that he hopes this is the beginning of his making good on that promise. The song was beautiful, especially when you know the story behind it. Arguably, the prettiest part of the song are his “la la la” parts, coupled with an acoustic guitar and pretty keyboard notes. When someone shouted “I love you, Javier!” he answered that he loved her as well, adding, “I think it helps that we don’t know each other.”

As the band left to give the crowd some “alone time” with him, Javier made mention of his performance on The Voice. Someone shouted, “you’re the best!” He said he wanted to take us back to the most nervous he’s ever been in his life: his audition. He was having second thoughts about his song choice, he explained, thinking it might not be right. He was afraid no one would turn around for him, since that had been the case with several great artists before his turn. He was just hoping someone would turn their chair around for him, thus selecting him to continue on the show. He said, “I went out, sang it, and it worked out.” Indeed. The song, “Time After Time,” is another beautiful cover, and it really did take me back. I got the exact same goosebumps watching it live last night that I did watching him audition last April.

After saying “I love this crowd!” Javier talked about his two baby girls (ages two and four), and their “very musical household,” where there’s naturally a lot of singing, and he’s teaching his four-year-old a little guitar. What he sings with them, though, isn’t the same stuff he was singing for us: instead, it’s more along the lines of “Colors” and “Baby Beluga.” His girls are, he explained, “in love with Bert and Ernie,” and there’s one song in particular he loves that Ernie sings, not just because his kids love them, but because he thinks it’s a really well-written song. He sang a bit of the song, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” doing an absolutely spot-on impression of Sesame Street‘s Ernie, and it was then that I realized that he’s quite funny. He definitely has a talent for impressions! He explained that if you look the song up on YouTube, Ernie sings with special guest Aaron Neville, which segued into an equally perfect impression of Mr. Neville’s voice, and then back into a bit of Taylor Swift’s “Mean.”

Javier then introduced his friend Matt, the keyboard player, and began talking about country music, asking the crowd if they like it. He said that for a long time, he didn’t like it, that it “didn’t move him.” He sang just a little line of “Achy Breaky Heart” to illustrate the kind of song he hadn’t emotionally responded to, saying it “doesn’t do it for” him. Then there was another one he liked, but he said that he’d “be out and drunk people would congregate and sing along” wherever it was that he heard it. The song, of course, was “Friends in Low Places,” which he sang a bit of, inviting the people in the crowd to sing along, naturally. (“Y’all are drunk right now, aren’t ya?”) He admitted that he does think that “Garth can do no wrong,” though. Now that he’s eventually become a huge fan of country, he said that one thing he loves is how country music still tells stories. In current R&B and pop, he feels that music is much more about physically moving people than emotionally doing so, but loves that country gets you to “step out of your own shoes” by telling you an actual story. The next song, from the new album, was called “OK, Here’s the Truth,” and tells quite a story of its own. It being kind of a downer, he joked after that it was a “feel good kinda song,” and then promised to cheer us up.

He and the band are huge fans of James Taylor, Javier admitted as they joined him again on stage. They know every song, and could play a medley (he sang brief teasers of a few to prove it), but instead they played a cover of “Your Smiling Face.” The sound with the full band is so loud and rich, it’s fantastic. I’ll admit that I literally saw an older woman hurrying from her seat near the front toward the lobby with her hands over her ears, but I enjoy the volume, especially because it’s such a great sound. Next up was Javier’s gorgeous cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” which he recalled singing with his former coach Adam Levine as one of his favorite moments, especially because the writer was in attendance that evening. He then sat at the keyboard and began to play his new single, which he said really “hit home with him. The song, “A Drop in the Ocean,” is definitely the kind of tune I can see as a big hit, as it’ll likely touch others as well.

Javier asked the crowd, “are you still having a good time?” and when they cheered back at him, he added, “just making sure.” The next song, “Runnin’,” really caught my attention, and then he asked if it was okay to get funky, asking if funk was “allowed in Napa.” He played his cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” during which he introduced the rest of the members of his band, and then had a quick powwow to decide what they’d play next. He decided on one he wanted to do because he misses his babies. He’d been gone about 10 days, he said, and his wife sends him pictures every day. The song is about the struggles of work and when they can’t be with him. “Don’t cry,” he said to someone in the front row who must’ve said she might. “If you cry, I will.” The song, “Echo,” did in fact bring tears to my eyes, and listen…I’m not that girl. Seriously. I didn’t cry, but it was beautiful. It was easy to imagine how hard it would be being away from your young children and spouse, and Javier’s so honest and easy to relate to, I got sucked into his emotions for a minute. When he’d finished it, he asked the woman, “did you cry? Did it get you?” It was, he said, “the highest form of flattery,” adding that he was sorry, “but thank you.”

Knowing the set was near its end, Javier admitted to being against “this game we play,” where a musician says thank you and goodnight, leaves the stage, and hides, waiting for the crowd to get loud enough for them to come back and play their last few songs. “It’s a time waster,” he said, deciding instead just to stay on stage and “pretend.” He sang again the chorus of Taylor Swift’s “Mean,” and then sang a cover by “the most amazing female artist ever,” which was Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and was flawless. “Stitch by Stitch” came next, and then Javier thanked the crowd for coming, for voting for him on The Voice (“if you voted”), and for changing his life, and the future of his wife and babies. “I love you guys,” he said, and left us with a little something he liked, which had an intro from the keys that sounded like an organ. The song reminded him of a time before The Voice, when he was a “broken man, a broken artist,” and one by one, “you all fixed me.” The final cover of the night was of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” and I’m still relishing the way he sang it, more than twelve hours later. Before waving goodbye and leaving the stage, Javier ended appropriately: with one last chorus of “Mean.”

I won’t lie and say that I already owned Javier’s new album. He was my favorite contestant on The Voice last year and I was thrilled to see him win. And then I pretty much forgot to follow his music, and haven’t heard much about him since, until I saw that he was coming my way for this show. But make no mistake, after last night, I won’t again get far out of earshot from this guy. Not only is he an absolutely fantastic musician, but he truly seems to be a great guy, and that means something to me. I wish him all the best in his career, and I can’t wait to follow the many years I expect he’ll be singing.

Stacy Scales

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

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie March 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Awww, I wish I knew he was in Napa. He’s awesome! I have “remembered” to follow him after The Voice. 🙂

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Dean Fields March 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Wow..What a great roundup of the show. And it sounds like an awesome one. Glad to hear Reed is getting some much deserved exposure. He and I used to do shows together. And Javier is is fantastic of course. Thanks for the good read.

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Judi March 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I was fortunate enough to be at this show–and it was *AWESOME*!! This review is such a wonderful portrayal of every part of the show– This writer is GOOD at getting all the points–and she sure writes from her heart! I enjoyed the intro by Reed (never heard of him before) but I feel certain I will hear of him again in the future–beautiful voice! I was SOooo impressed with the music by Javier & his band! He has the most friendly personality, and his VOICE : what more can one say than **WOW!!!** I will definitely go to hear him again! …and look forward to seeing his career SOAR!

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Rob Dixon March 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

He’s coming our way on April 28th. Thanks for the review. I am trying to help fill the place. A great venue here in Long Island, NY.

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Migdalia May 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

What a great review, covered every aspect of the show. It made me feel like I was there.
Superb writer. I love Javier. God bless him!

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