The minute Amos Lee launched into “El Camino,” it was clear how talented the low key crooner really is. Currently touring the western US behind his new album “Mission Bell,” the singer is making new fans and hearing from adoring die-hards at every tour stop. As for the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, well, the show was nearly sold out. On a Tuesday. In January. His name may not be a household one but the man has a strong following indeed.
Vusi Mahlasela has an infectious smile, an impeccable voice and a message. He opened the show for Lee and when he left the stage he left it with a room full of new fans. Mahlasela hails from Africa, his new album “Say, Africa” produced by the legendary Taj Mahal, is a mix of blues, rock and Vusi.
His songs are extremely personal, he connects with the audience immediately and his message that Africa is a great place, comes across as genuine. Vusi spent the rest of the night watching Lee, perusing the posters that adorn the Fillmore’s walls and signing autographs. The man is a talented musician that has a unique ability to make you feel like an old friend. An act not to be missed.
Underrated is the perfect word for Lee. He’s played all the late night talk shows, opened for the likes of Bob Dylan and released four studio albums. Yet, Lee isn’t that well known. He tends to stay under the radar. His music may not be what some would call main stream. That being said Lee has a chill inducing voice that conjures up comparisons to old blues records.
A strong performance of “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight,” solidified that Lee is blues through and through. He has a certain confident swagger on stage. He’s not conceited by any means and shy’s away from exchanges with the audience. He does have a track record of making the music he wants to make. In today’s musical climate that’s a trait to be admired.
In 2005 Lee opened for Bob Dylan in Oakland. Not many knew his name and he had only one album of material to work with. The audience quite liked Lee and he reminded them that after the Dylan gig he’d be playing at a smaller club across the bridge in San Francisco. The hard working musician was playing the Make Out Room at 2 am. His laid back personalty emerged as he quipped “If you have nothing to do tonight come seem me there and we can…make out,” a sheepish smile was met by applause. His hard work has paid off and as Lee closed out his show with the closest thing to a contemporary hit he’s recorded, a song entitled “Sweet Pea,” the audience applauded Lee once again. This time, though, they knew who he was.