Latture, who I had been looking forward to seeing live since the Conway band's appearance in our Musicians Showcase two months ago, lived up to expectations, and Damn Bullets, Further Down and Josef Hedinger also were terrific in their 30 minute sets (DB getting an encore call) at LiveStock, the benefit for Heifer International put on by the UCA Honors College last night at Juanita's.
The crowd was at its peak for Damn Bullets and Latture, but the early arrivers caught a talented Hedinger and his ballad-filled R&B style and piano playing. Hedinger's voice sounds a lot like the Maroon 5 vocalist; he has great range and doesn't sound forced when he reaches for the highs, where so many others go weak with the falsetto. Hedinger got the crowd to sing along on John Lennon's "Imagine."
Damn Bullets simply rocked in a show reminscent of their early round brilliance in the Showcase on Jan. 25, when they could do no wrong. Their ode to President Bush is up on their myspace site and was one of the highlights, though what blew us away was the lengthy jam out in one of their later songs. We described the music as rock-a-billy, and a friend commented, "They're like the early Beatles doing country." Quite a compliment.
My second viewing of Latture revealed what I had thought the first time: This Conway sextet, which is self-described on their myspace page as "Christmas dinner with Ben Folds and Freddie Mercury," has a lot of depth, many layers. I was hit by the thought about two-thirds through their set that the bass (Jordan Wright), guitar (Cale Mills) and drums (Jason Bourg) could form their own side project playing power heavy rock. Seth Latture's piano and vocals are the driving force of the band, and Mandi Tollette adds great harmonies above Latture's melody line, while also serving sort of as cheerleader leading their many vocal fans who sing along. I love Jessica Algaier's violin, but if there was one criticism, it's that she let her strings go a little flat midway through the set. But the band's rocking cover of "All Along the Watchtower" was a nice twist on the Dylan classic.
The crowd had thinned again with Jonesboro's Further Down -- who didn't have the advantage of bringing in a busload of their own fans -- took the stage. My how far this Southern rock act has come in the two years since I last heard them in the finals of the Showcase. Tight, powerful, and with new songs that struck a chord, plus a couple at the end from their earlier days that are topflight rock songs. This is a rock band that in constantly touring the region has learned to perform to a level seen from big-time touring acts. Their style is a bit throwback -- like what you'd hear out of classic rock, and I'm not sure where they can be heard the way local radio is set up now. Same is probably true of all the acts outside of Hedinger, who had several songs that sounded radio ready. We could only imagine what he would have sounded like backed by a full band.
The show inside ended around 11:30, but it kept on going outside, where Damn Bullets' Paul Morphis and Joe Sundell played to a nice gathering of fans in front of the Juanita's window. Their outside set ranged from "Blister in the Sun" to "Amazing Grace." Very cool.