I was prepared for an amazing evening of music on Valentine's Day when I went to see Jay Clifford perform with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. As I sat through the first half of the set, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
Jay and the band's playing was great. The symphony's playing was great. The arrangements were great. But all that greatness was squashed by a poor mix during the first half of the set.
Jonathan Gray's upright bass was practically inaudible. Josh Kaler's electric guitar was inaudible most of the night. His pedal steel managed to cut through the mix on occasion. Michael Flynn's Wurlizter was also lost in the mix. The only thing that seemed to be coming through the sound system was Jay's vocals and guitar as well as a little bit of the symphony.
All of this left the show sounding very weak.
I was in attendance three years ago when Jump, Little Children played with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and it was phenomenal. The stars aligned that night, in part, thanks to a lot of pre-production work and the ears of Jump's sound engineer, Ian.
After a short intermission, the band took the stage again and the sound improved marginally. The bass was brought up a little in the mix but Kaler's guitar was still nowhere to be heard.
The song that suffered the most from the bad sound was "Vertigo." The band was visibly rocking out on the song but it was no where to be heard. Watching Jonathan Gray dance around with the upright bass felt like watching television on mute. There was movement but no sound.
To make matters worse, the big "surprise" that was built up for the show, ended up being a marriage proposal by one of the symphony players. Don't get me wrong, it was sweet and all I guess (and a bit awkward), but to be billed as a surprise and have no real payoff for the audience left me a bit annoyed. The proposal was followed by the Jump wedding tune, "By the Way They Dance."
Nonetheless, throughout the night Jay and the band delivered strong performances of his new songs from Driving Blind as well as some reworked arrangements of some classic Jump tunes (the full setlist is at the bottom of the post). The mix running through the band's monitors must have been great because the energy level was high and they seemed incredibly happy.
I've been a fan of Jay Clifford and Jump, Little Children for almost 10 years, geez, since I was 16. Jay is one of my favorite songwriters. Sadly, this was the first time I was disappointed by one of his shows. I'm glad that I had a fun time in Charleston, otherwise I would have felt the trip was a bust.
Don't let this review deter you from checking out Jay Clifford's music. His songwriting is of the highest caliber and his shows are phenomenal.
Charleston Music Hall set list
Don't Be Fooled
Dim and the Dark
Rains In Asia
Waltzing Past the Grave
No God, No Country
Caught In the Rain
By the Way They Dance
Know When To Walk Away
Where She Lies