Graham Colton is no stranger to Chicago. After a show and interview with us in February, he was back at Lincoln Hall in October and then again for this show in December. Chicago isn’t officially Graham’s home, but it’s probably about time he think about renting something here because the people assembled at Lincoln Hall love him like he grew up just down the street. The sentiment is for good reason. Graham Colton is one of the most genuine people to have ever struck a chord with a guitar…or a fan.
This performance, like all the others, is a trip down memory lane. A time before wives and responsibilities and full-time jobs. A time when you didn’t really care about what music other people were listening to and what was and wasn’t cool. It was all about music that you could connect to. Maybe it was the sound, or the lyrics or even the feeling behind it, but you connected. Graham makes that happen every time he takes the stage, and this time was no different. He eloquently forces you to forget about the shitty day you just had, the girl that broke your heart or the fact you have to work in six hours; the only thing that matters is that moment you’re living in right now.
As he emotes about events and feelings from his past, you can’t help but relate to his experiences in one way or another. He’s honest, almost to a fault at some times, but it’s never contrived. Somehow, he poured every ounce of that into his performance. He’s an excellent guitar player, singer and songwriter, but Graham’s true gift is his ability to connect with his audience on a level most people have never experienced.
When Graham Colton first took the stage at Lincoln Hall (to perform a duet of “Right Behind You” with opener Ashley Arrison), hearts melted. Girls swooned. Dudes watched enviously. Faces were melted with the first taste of alt-rock awesomesauce that the denizens of Chicago were specially invited by Graham to experience.
The minute Graham opens his mouth is a heart-warming experience. Like the first swig on a standard Chicago evening (without the hair on your knuckles), it’s an inarguable experience. You don’t have any choice but to just give in and let the warmth wash over you. His passion, emotion and vulnerability aren’t something you have to dig deep to find either, they’re right there on the surface. It’s actually quite endearing.
The emotion is right there for you to reach out and connect with. The wholesome, unassuming “boy next door” persona that he embodies isn’t some manufactured piece of PR perfection, it’s just who Graham is. As he rocks (and I mean that seriously) through a set filled with requests, vodka shots and a fair bit of self-deprecating humor, it feels less like a concert and more like you’re part of something. He isn’t interested in just playing music, he’s bound and damned determined to make sure each and every person is having a great time.
The emotion is genuine. The talent is real. The songwriting is extraordinary. He plays the new album’s title track “Pacific Coast Eyes” and the room is filled with smiling faces. (If that single doesn’t hit the top of the VH1 countdown I will ear my shoe.) Mixing up his own songs with a little Billy Joel and Miley Cyrus -before ultimately ending up at Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”- you can’t help but love this guy. There’s no Autotune, no post-processing and no synthesizers or remixing required to make the sound perfect.
The entire set is filled with catchy pop songs that you can’t help but sing along to. Since they don’t leave you with that dirty bubblegum taste in your mouth, you don’t have to feel bad about it either. Graham Colton isn’t just “back,” he’s better than ever.