You can’t believe a word Eric Hutchinson says. Don’t believe me? See for yourself: his new album even admits it’s all Pure Fiction. Tall tales or no, I wanted to hear just what Mr. Hutchinson’s been up to since I saw him last, so I rounded up a couple girlfriends last night and headed out to the Fillmore to give him a listen. Shortly after we arrived, the “Tell the World Tour” support act Saints of Valory took the stage to kick the evening off.
Their set began with new song “26,” after which lead singer Gavin Jasper greeted the crowd, introducing himself and the band before adding that they were from Austin, TX. I never got the name of the song that came next, but at its close Jasper indicated that the last time the band played in San Francisco, it was to a sold out crowd at the Independent. Quickly, though, he admitted how exciting it was to be playing the legendary Fillmore, calling it “amazing.” Saying that he was from Brazil, Jasper began the next song, “Long Time Coming,” with a promise of “a little Carnival for you!”
“Who’s excited for the one they call Eric Hutchinson?” Jasper teased the crowd between songs. Predictably, the crowd cheered back. “Who’s excited for the one they call Saints of Valory?” After a quick tale about the band’s recent performance at Coachella, they played their version of Lorde’s “Royals,” which was the highlight of their set, at least for me. (Nothing against SoV, by the way, I just still really dig that song, somehow, and their cover was awesome.)
“Thank you very much!” Jasper acknowledged the audience. “We got a few more songs for you guys. You wanna hear a few more songs?” Before starting the aforementioned remaining songs, Jasper told the crowd that “one good thing about touring with a band as cool as Eric Hutchinson is that we can come drink with you guys for the rest of the night,” which he said they’d be doing back by their merch table after their set. The next song was another I didn’t catch the name of, but it featured a long instrumental break, during which Jasper checked in on the crowd: “you still with me, San Francisco?”
“Are you feeling all warmed up now?” Jasper asked. “This song’s called ‘Neon Eyes,'” he explained, adding that you may hear it on KFOG “because the fucking awesome city of San Francisco is supporting Saints of Valory!” Asking the crowd to come visit them after their set to shake their hands and say hello, Jasper thanked the crowd once more, saying, “these shows just keep getting better and better.” The next song, “Kids,” began with a long, fantastically percussive intro, and was the band’s finally offering of the evening. “We’re Saints of Valory, thank you so much!”
Shortly after 9pm, the lights went down and the crowd promptly began to scream, chanting, “Eric! Eric! Eric!” Taking the stage in the dark, Hutchinson made an entrance that was just the right amount of dramatic. He began at the keyboard with “Love Like You” from his newest album. “San Francisco, ready to get it cracking? You ready to do this?” Judging by the level of cheering that came back from the floor, they were. “Watching You Watch Him” came next, followed by “All Over Now,” after which he paused to “welcome everybody to the Tell the World Tour.” The next song was “Oh!” from his first album (Sounds Like This), and Hutchinson asked the crowd to join him in singing the chorus, as he often does at live shows.
“Food Chain” came next, and when he repeatedly faked out the crowd with what sounded like the end of the song, someone joked “fuck you!” Without missing a beat, Hutchinson retorted, “fuck you!” right back. “Let’s get a little keys on it, let’s get this going!” A little jam session led back into the chorus from “Oh!” which wrapped up the segment. “Thank you guys! SF! How you guys doing tonight?” To his credit, Hutchinson made it clear that he knew that a San Francisco crowd does not consist solely of San Franciscans. “We got Oakland in the house, Northern Californians… West Coasters… Americans… Citizens of the World… Wow. We’re really well represented tonight!”
“Thanks for comin’ out tonight! We’re a few weeks into the tour,” Hutchinson explained. “I can already tell this is gonna be the best show we’ve ever done here.” He went on to tell a little story about his new record, or more specifically, the song he wanted to play next. He admitted he’d never gone to sleep-away camp as a kid, and that he felt “bad for myself.” Impressively, though, he took the opportunity to make up for lost time by “going to adult sleep-away camp last summer.” He wasn’t kidding, he insisted, calling it the “best thing I’ve ever done,” and saying that it was “so serene” and that he pictures it “when I’m having trouble sleeping.” I was listening, I swear – but whether he wrote the next song to evoke the feeling “like I’m sitting around a campfire singing ‘Kumbaya,’ but with better lyrics” or specifically to hold on to actual memories from his grown-up sleep-away experience, I somehow missed. At any rate, the song was “Goodnight Goodbye,” and before he even got started, Hutchinson stopped himself and addressed the crowd honestly. “Here’s the deal, guys. This is the most vulnerable I’m gonna get all night.” He went on to say that if people insisted on talking, he couldn’t do much to stop them, “I guess.” More importantly, he encouraged those nearest the talkers to “give the person next to you a look like, ‘what the crap, man?'” I hope they did, wherever it applied. The song was great, and I always respect little pockets of honesty like this one from an artist.
“Y’all ready to dance? Let me welcome to the stage Jethro Jeremiah and the Soulmates!” Hutchinson explained that he’d heard them singing upstairs in the Fillmore’s lounge and “had to bring them onstage” to help him with the next song, “The Basement.” It was certainly a good call on someone’s part – they sounded fantastic, and I don’t know when or where they had a chance to learn the song, but it all came together wonderfully. After a little bit of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Hutchinson gave his guests another quick shoutout as they left the stage before “I Don’t Love U.”
“This girl right here… what’s-her-name…” I’m not sure what made Hutchinson single out the girl in the front, but her name was “Leah! We’ve all got some catching up to do to get to where Leah is. We’re at a ten, Leah’s at a seven thousand! What song do you wanna hear?” Pausing to listen to her, Hutchinson answered, “This is awkward. That’s not my song… Just kidding.” He then taught the crowd the part he wanted them to sing along for the next song, “OK, it’s Alright with Me.”
“Outside Villanova” came next, featuring a great guitar solo. “Everybody feeling good out there? We’re gonna keep it movin’ here, guys.” Hutchinson paused again to remind the crowd of his new album, explaining that the next song was about “forbidden love: it’s about falling in love with a lesbian. The song is called ‘Forget About Joni,’ sing along if you know it!” When the song was over, Hutchinson gave his touring band a shoutout: “Do I have a great band playing with me or what?” and then went on to list all the various places on social media where fans could follow him. “I just signed up on Tinder and Grinder…” he joked. “Lot of interest there, but not a lot of album sales. It’s working out.” The next song, he said, was “an old song, but also a new song… It’s an enigma wrapped in an enigma… Wrapped in a taco.” The song was “Breakdown More.”
“I’d like to send this one out to all of our pals at Pandora,” Hutchinson said before the next song, “Back to Where I Was,” which featured his backup singer, Jessie Payo on one of the verses, as well as Hutchinson’s guitar player on another verse. “This song… I haven’t decided yet…” Hutchinson trailed off. “It’s definitely about waiting, but I haven’t decided yet if it’s about waiting for a lover, or for a drug dealer…” The song, “A Little More,” could in fact apply to either situation. This is definitely one of the best things about seeing Eric Hutchinson live: he’s a great musician, and I enjoy what he does, musically. Live, though, he’s got such great comedic timing. I always enjoy his dry, witty sense of humor. “All day, all night, we’re gonna set the party off right,” he chanted between songs, eventually leading into “You Don’t Have to Believe Me” and a little of the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” in the mix, too.
Another little jam followed, with Hutchinson repeating “can you feel it? Can you feel it? Can I kick it?” (Someone onstage quickly gave him the anticipated response: “yes, you can!”) There was an unexpected “your mama’s so fat…” and some sort of little rap, but it all came back around eventually into “You Don’t…” which finished nicely with the crowd shouting the line “you sure better believe me when I tell you your mind’s what’s hot!” with the singer. “Can you feel it? Can you feel it? Can you feel that spirit in the dark?” For a moment, the lights when out and Hutchinson vanished. Of course, he reappeared quickly, thanking the crowd for “being with us here tonight. We came a long way and you did not disappoint. Someone once said all good things must come to an end… I bet that guy was kind of a dick,” Hutchinson joked. (Though he’s right!) “And not that fun at parties, or concerts such as this…”
The next song, he said, was “about holding on. And holding on, and holding on, and holding on, and holding on. Cause you never know. The song’s called ‘Forever.'” The crowd ate it up, clapping along. “Can you feel it out there?” Evidently, they definitely all could. Hutchinson came down off the stage and wandered into the crowd, saying, “come on in close, everybody. We’re not at a dance party. Come on in close!” It was fun to watch the fans swarm around him. I couldn’t see him from where I stood, but I know he made those fans very happy by coming out into their midst. Moments later, he reappeared on the stage: “Thank you so much, San Francisco! Thank you guys!”
Before I had much time to register the end of his regular set, Hutchinson and the band were back for the encore, starting with the “na na na”s of “Rock & Roll,” which was every bit as catchy and excellent as I’d want his biggest hit so far to be when I hear it live. “Thank you so much for coming out tonight, everybody!” After a quick introduction to the members of his band, Hutchinson closed with the tour’s title track, “Tell the World,” which features the fantastic line “I”ll make you wish you were here tonight,” and at least for my friends and I, he did just that. “I hope you had a good time tonight!” We did, Eric. We did.