TVD Live Shots: Howard Jones with Rachael Sage at the El Rey Theater, 2/1

Howard Jones seems to be getting better with age. He’s anything but a one-hit wonder and continues to churn out amazing, new music along with reimagining his classics of yesteryear. If you get a chance to Howard Jones live in support of his 2020 “Transform Tour,” do so—you will not be disappointed.

The early eighties were a magical time for music. The New Wave revolution was just beginning to take off and bands like Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys were just beginning to make a name for themselves here in the States. Fast forward a few years, and a little-known English musician by the name of Howard Jones burst onto scene. His humble beginnings in 1983 quickly morphed into a very distinct style of music that blended his amazing talent as a pianist with true genius storytelling. On a crisp Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles, Howard Jones took the stage at the historic El Rey Theater for an intimate night of music and conversation that captivated a capacity crowd.

Opening the show for Howard Jones was New York singer and songwriter, Rachael Sage. Her brief 30-minute set was jam-packed with beautiful songs like “Spark,” “Trouble,” and my favorite “Haunted by Objects.” Rachael’s ability to connect with the crowd was noticeable, as many in the audience were smiling ear to ear while singing along to songs that were fresh, catchy, and relevant. In addition, Rachael’s voice was simply breathtaking and echoed joyfully throughout the El Rey.  It seemed the perfect place to showcase this amazing talent. I’d be remiss not to mention Rachael’s violinist, Kelly Halloran. She is an out-of-this-world talent and I thoroughly enjoyed her playing throughout the set.

After a brief intermission, lights at the El Rey dimmed as Howard Jones finally took the stage joined by legendary bassist Nick Beggs and guitar virtuoso Robin Boult. With his trusted Yamaha Piano at center stage, Howard opened the show with “Pearl in The Shell” along with a snippet of Elton John’s classic, “Saturday Night…” It seemed an appropriate way to kick off their all-acoustic set and resonated well with the faithful in attendance. Next up was “Assault & Battery” off 1986’s Dream into Action album. I have seen him play this a few times live and hearing it unplugged was a real treat. He had no trouble bringing this track to life with his amazing vocal range and brilliant piano skills.

Over the next hour and a half, fans were treated to an incredible set that encompassed 35+ years of Howard Jones. From favorites such as “What is Love” and “Life In One Day,” to more obscure classics like “Falling Away.” There was something for every fan in attendance on Saturday night. One of my favorite moments of the evening was Howard, Nick, and Robin reimagining the 1989 hit, “Everlasting Love.” This song holds a special meaning to me as it was one my wife Tania and I listened to often while dating. Hearing it live—on my 23rd wedding anniversary coincidentally—with her by my side was a dream come true and one I won’t soon forget. Thanks Howard for making this one so special!

The 17-song set came to an end with a killer encore including “God Only Knows” (the timeless Beach Boys classic) which Howard performed solo. Upon conclusion, Nick and Robin joined him on stage for one last song, “Things Can Only Get Better.” It was awesome to see the capacity crowd immediately jump to their feet and begin singing word for word one Howard’s most well-known songs and a great way to cap off this incredible all-acoustic set at the El Rey. Howard Jones’s fresh take on the old and new give me hope that meaningful live music performances are not a thing of the past and I look forward to seeing another one of his live performances at some point in the near future.

RACHAEL SAGE

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