Sam Evian and Liam Kazar share more than a band. They share a sonic landscape, showmanship and songcraft that might well have been lifted from the mid-’70s and set down unscathed at Johnny Brenda’s.
Kazar, taking the stage first, was in the pocket with drummer Sean Mullins and bassist Brian Betancourt, focusing on soft-rock songs from his solo debut, Due North, including “So Long Tomorrow,” “Nothing To You,” and “I’ve Been Where You Are.” For “Old Enough For You,” Kazar brought out Evian to add a sax flourish and Hannah Cohen as a duet partner, following it up with a cover of Cohen’s “Get In Line.” Putting down his guitar for “Something Tender,” Kazar serenaded the balcony, karaoke-style, before wrapping up with the insistently catchy “Shoes Too Tight.”
Evian kept Kazar, Cohen, Mullins and Betancourt on hand for his stylish headlining set, adding Michael Coleman on a fleet of keys. He strummed some guitar, blew a little sax and crooned warm tunes that were smooth but never slick. Not content to concentrate on the brand-new Time To Melt, Evian then fired up the disco ball and sauntered through the entirety of the a-side of his next project.
Leading off the encore, a cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right On Down The Line” hit the spot between easy listening and proto-yacht rock. Few folks in the crowd may have been alive when it was a radio hit in 1978, but it scratched a nostalgic itch all the same. Evian original “Cactus,” from 2016’s Premium, extended that same amiable spirit, ending the show with good vibes and sending satisfied folks out into the crisp Philly night.
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich