From the beginning, John Lloyd Young has always poured his heart and soul into his music - so you would think that there wouldn’t be any way that he could put any more passion into it. But if you think that, you would be dead wrong.
From the moment he came in from the back of the room, all eyes were on him and stayed fixed on his every move for the rest of the evening. Most of us had seen the photos from shows earlier in the Carlyle engagement of JLY’s new look in head to toe leather - but even those pictures don’t do him justice. And that goes for his nails as well…being up close to the stage, I was able to get a good look and they look very cool in person. The edgier look works for him, as it fits perfectly with the emotion and intensity I witnessed at Cafe Carlyle on Friday night.
Having been to a couple of previous shows (one at Sterling’s in April, the other at the Kennedy Center in November), I had heard all of the songs in this set previously, with the exception of one new song. But there was something different this time - and it was different in a very good way. He opened with Stardust, which I had heard in April, and which I have been told that he had not performed again until now. This time, he had a fresh take, truly conveying all of the emotion that the words contain; even previous versions by other artists have not done that. Instead of the usual “sweetness” of the song, he brought out the raw, pure feelings - an updated version of a classic that far surpasses the original or any other version that’s been done. He also did that with many other songs in the set, literally taking my breath away and moving me to tears, especially with Just One Smile, Hurt, and Say No More. There is no other singer or performer who can do what JLY does with a song. He truly has a special gift - and I can also imagine how cathartic it is to perform these songs. It’s like having a workout on stage, as he puts absolutely everything he has into each song. I also love that he shared stories and tidbits with us about his Italian ancestors and his upcoming trip to Cuba with the arts delegation, and more. All of his friends and fans love being able to share in his joys and hear those stories.
We all had a chance to have a little fun in the middle of the set, as JLY performed Sherry for us, complete with all of the moves. Even though he is moving on to even better things after Jersey Boys, we all appreciated it - and it looks like he was having almost as much fun as we were! If you thought the choreography looked good in the red jacket, just imagine how well it went over in leather…
The best part of the evening was when he performed his original songs. I was fascinated with the stories of how these songs came about…as a writer I am always interested in the songwriting process, and I am thrilled that he is going in this direction. Tommy Faragher is the perfect songwriting partner as well, and the two of them really are the Dynamic Duo (along with the three other stellar musicians who played with them at the Carlyle). I couldn’t help but smile as I stole glances at Tommy behind the piano, seeing pure joy on his face during the set. The energy between Tommy and JLY is incredible, and it spreads throughout the room to the rest of us. It’s a wonderful thing to witness. I had heard Almost There and Alone Together before, but they are even better now with improved arrangements and stronger emotion. It was my first time to hear Slow Dawn Calling…the lyrics had been posted by friends who had been to the last Sterling’s show, so I was already in love with the words. Getting to actually hear it, complete with music and JLY’s passion for the song, blew me away. I would love to hear this on the radio - I can completely see it climbing the charts and becoming a hit.
JLY ended the night with Maybe I’m Amazed, which he truly does perform better than Sir Paul, and To Make You Feel My Love, which he had posted on Tumblr as a rough cut not long ago. He dedicated it to all of us in the audience, and hearing and watching him perform it live brought the tears again.
@johnlloydyoungfriends - you really are a rock star, in every sense of the word. It’s an honor and a privilege to witness your ®evolution…and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. The future is VERY bright. :o)