On Thursday, February 6th, the eve of their latest release, Half Moon Light (QRO review), The Lone Bellow returned to Rockwood Music Hall (QRO venue review) for a rousing, intimate, and emotional celebration.
For the trio, Stage 2 in New York City’s Lower East Side is more than just another space to play. It represents their start as a band. The Lone Bellow recorded their self-titled debut in the same room in 2011. Going further back, Brian Elmquist recalls waiting to see Zach Williams perform. The two, old friends from college, were soon joined by Kanene Donehey Pipkin and the trio have been going strong ever since.
That historical thread was present throughout the career-spanning set at Rockwood Music Hall and sponsored by WFUV. It was an intimate affair, with just one microphone shared by the three immensely talented singers. Williams was overcome by the gravity of the night at multiple points during the set. Beginning with “Count on Me” through “August” and ending with “Enemies”, all from the new album, Williams could be seen trying his best to hold back tears or stepping away from the mic to compose himself.
To see that emotion laid bare is one of the many reasons to witness The Lone Bellow live. Williams wrings everything he has into each song. His voice can reach to the rafters with ease and it was especially powerful at Rockwood. Williams also shares the stage with two incredibly talented singers in Elmquist and Pipkin.
Whether it’s Elmquist performing “August” or Pipkin taking the lead on “Call to War” later in the evening, each member of The Lone Bellow adds their own unique wrinkle to the band. Together, they are a force that can move anyone to tears.
The Lone Bellow forged an instantaneous connection with the audience at Rockwood. It’s not just a crowd seeing a beloved band. It’s a family gathering and all the ease and awkwardness that comes with that. You can watch as Williams and Elmquist try, and fail, to fix Pipkin’s broken guitar strap. There’s also fun banter and impromptu ditties. Or, Williams can giddily lead the crowd in a singalong of “You Never Need Nobody”. You’re at home with The Lone Bellow.
Even with a set featuring never-before-played songs off Half Moon Light, including “Enemies” and “Friends”, it feels warm and familiar. The new album, produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, features the heartfelt storytelling you’ve come to expect from The Lone Bellow in an expanded form. It’s the sound of a band that’s comfortable in itself and willing to experiment. There’s a trust required to go somewhere new.
Shouting out Dessner, who produced their last two albums, The Lone Bellow covered The National’s “Pink Rabbit”.
Like all good family gatherings, the night must come to an end. With smiles all around, The Lone Bellow launched into “Green Eyes,” a crowd favorite from their debut. The sentiment, of love and sticking together regardless of the circumstances, still resonates. Even as time changes, The Lone Bellow remains a consistent force.