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Eagle-Eye Cherry

“Save tonight” for Paradise

By Michael K. Dowe

Monday, March 8, 7:28pm: I arrive at the Paradise Rock Club with Evan, my photographer. There are supposed to be tickets waiting for us at the box office, but I simply pull out a press pass, and the thick-necked bouncers let us in without a hassle. As we walk down the long corridor, we can hear a band warming up, cueing the engineer. Eagle-Eye and his crew spout bits and pieces of a few tunes, and I can already tell this will be a dope concert.

7:55 p.m.: I’m completely geeked like a pathetic, star struck groupie. I met Eagle-Eye along with other members of the press and some jerks who won a contest. I already knew he was the son of jazz legend Don Cherry, and younger brother of Neneh Cherry of Buffalo Stance fame; he was born and raised in Stockholm, where his hippie parents often took the whole family across Europe for summers at a time; he studied acting at the “Fame” school -- the New York School for Performing Arts -- then spent a few years pursuing a successful acting career; his creativity soon turned to music, so he relocated to Sweden and concentrated on his opus, which is already platinum-plus.

I don’t know why, but with such a history of artistic expression and wanderlust, I expected Eagle-Eye would be one of those snotty, self absorbed types. But when I approached to give him dap, he gripped me up like one of the boys. It turns out he’s quite down to earth. We chatted a few minutes about his music and my writing, he autographed a poster and CD for me, and we even posed so Evan could take a picture. My half-fro was a little misshapen, but Eagle-Eye’s was too, so it’s all good. I was stoked, ready for loud music, cold beers, head bobbing, and more cold beers.

7:57 p.m.: I bought the first cold beer, and my wallet cried. For such a lager and ale crazed city, a pint sure is expensive up here. I’m from Virginia, where cigarettes and trailer homes are always cheap. So what the hell is going on in Boston?

9:05 p.m.: The crowd, a bizarre mixture of ages, races, and styles, slowly begins to fill the room. The show should begin soon, and I’m wondering who’s this special guest, David Mead. A quick survey indicates that no one else has heard of him either. I’ve spent the past hour chumming it up with Evan, chain smoking through getting-to-know-you conversation.

9:25 p.m.: Long Island native David Mead has taken the stage and performs a few songs. He plays solo, switching between acoustic guitar and keyboards. With his funky attire and blonde bouffant resembling Brian Setzer, I figured Mead would try a solo jump, jive, and wail, but his style is an odd mixture of Tom Petty’s folk and Billy Joel’s croon, and it’s no wonder why the audience is pretty dead. This was his first time in Boston, and his lack of stage presence and energy left the performance lacking.

Mead’s only high point was an acoustic version of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin Alive,” where he got a bit of audience participation. His songs weren’t that bad, but love song after love song gets tired quickly. In June, Mead will be releasing his RCA album, The Luxury of Time. If there are any insomniacs out there looking for a soft lullaby, Mead’s your man.

10:33 p.m.: Eagle-Eye Cherry and his band finally take the stage, and the audience energy surges. He starts out with a mellow groove, followed by his next single, “Falling in Love Again.” Eagle-Eye’s songs are smoky, influenced by acid jazz, funk, and the blues. He wrote most of them on acoustic guitar, which also heavily influenced his sound. As he works through most of the tracks from his album, “Desireless,” I can hear people beckoning to hear his hit, “Save Tonight,” but that will have to wait.

Eagle-Eye’s songs deal with a number of issues and emotions, such as drug use in “Shooting up the Vein” and “Death Defied by Will,” and gang related violence in “Indecision.” Lead guitar player Mattias Torell rips several solos during the set, and percussionist Dominic Keyes is most impressive, especially on the African drums in an animated rendition of Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” From the force of the crowd, I’m sure heads in Kenmore Square can hear the screams of “Jah people.” The concert has a few new songs, including “Heaven,” and the story of a disastrous love affair, “Misfortune,” which Eagle-Eye dedicates to Billy the Pimp and Monica. He also explained that “Desireless,” the last track on the album, was written by his father, who died while the album was in progress. Eagle-Eye produced this song and dedicated the album to his father, making the track a moving, if not haunting piece that I definitely suggest people look out for.

The crowd is bursting at the seams, waiting for one song. They all want “Save Tonight.” Eagle-Eye begins the first guitar lick, and the audience erupts, jumping, bobbing, weaving. Afterwards, he and the band bounce off stage, leaving the crowd wanting more. For a full minute, everyone is screaming, pumping their fists, and banging against the walls, and Eagle-Eye comes out again to play a few more tunes. The cheers from the crowd alone tell of Eagle-Eye’s ability to energize and entertain.

11:44 p.m.: The band has left, and the thick-necked bouncers peruse the crowd to make sure everyone’s moving out. People scramble to pull posters off the wall, and at least half the crowd stands in line to buy t-shirts, CDs, and stickers.