TVD Live Shots:
Jake Shears at the Fillmore, 11/14

It’s been exactly one year since I saw Jake Shears live in London. It was one of two shows where he would showcase new music a few weeks before the official release of his debut record. That was November 14, 2017, and it just so happens that I would be in San Francisco to see the show again on November 14, 2018. I know, what are the odds?

Then again, what are the odds that anyone would put so much time and effort into crafting a remarkable album in the era of the single? A time when albums as a whole are under attack by seemingly shorter attention spans and the current viral flavor of the week? Enter Jake Shears and his eponymous debut record which he’s quoted as saying “This is a fucking expensive record…but I made something that’s exactly the way that I want it to sound. It’s become a lot harder to make music the way I just did it.” Amen to that Mr. Shears.

But it’s not just the investment from a cost point of view that goes into this record, and you can tell there’s not only a tremendous amount of passion here but also a healthy dose of pain. The song titles read like the chapters from a life’s narrative—someone who’s figured out a way to take virtually every element of emotion and inject it seamlessly through a storyline.

It’s like a soundtrack without a motion picture that relies more on storytelling, knockout hooks, soaring harmonies, and enormous production values that take the listener on a journey where they conjure up their own visuals along the way. It’s one of those records you can throw on the turntable, sit back in a bean bag chair with a pair of over the ear headphones and get lost for an hour reading along with the liner notes. When is the last time any music lover did this?

But on to the live show. How has Jake Shears evolved as a solo performer over the past year? Using the London gig as a benchmark, which was a fantastic show in itself, Shears has outdone himself. What I saw at one of the first solo gigs has transformed into a powerhouse performance. Maybe it was the stint on Broadway with Kinky Boots that influenced the over the top showmanship, or maybe it’s Jake becoming more and more confident as a solo artist, but whatever it may be he was on fire. From the very start of the show to the bringing down the house encore, Jake owned the stage and pulled the crowd directly into the show.

The thing to keep in mind with Shears and his solo record is that there’s not a bad song to be found here. So it just makes sense that he plays pretty much the entire record live, along with a few Scissor Sisters classics to remind us all how much we fucking love that band as well. While the upbeat numbers may be the crowd pleasers, Shear’s brightest spot on the album and the live show, for me that is, comes in the way he writes an AM radio throwback like no one’s business. There’s not a singer-songwriter on the planet who can touch Shear’s pop sensibility when it comes to combining the best elements of Elton John, The Bee Gees, and 10cc into one of the best ’70s ballads you’ve never heard before.

“Everything I’ll Ever Need” is a clear standout which could easily sit side by side with one of my all-time favorite Scissor Sister songs “Mary.” But I think the strongest of the slower jams on this one is the hidden gem called “All for What” which I was thrilled to see make the set that night. The delay of the infectious chorus, the gorgeous soundscapes behind Shears perfectly controlled tenor, and the slow build to the glorious ending makes for a sleeper hit on the album. Other highlights included… well, the whole fucking record, period.

Jake Shears has made an exceptional record and hired a stellar group of musicians to join him on tour (including My Morning Jacket drummer extraordinaire, Patrick Hallahan). Jake announced that he would be hitting the road as the opening act to the upcoming Kylie Minogue tour and it’s going to be fascinating to see him bring this show the arena stage.

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