By: Justin Hicken
Live music is being consumed very differently today than it was just a few weeks ago. Before the live-music world temporarily shifted to quarantined stream only on social media, earlier this month I had a blast attending a wonderful show by Amanda Shires and L.A. Edwards. These are two artists that I was not previously familiar with, and with everything currently on pause, I’m so happy I took advantage of this opportunity to introduce myself to their music.
Although this was the first time I had heard any of his music, as a classic rock fan, L.A. Edwards made me feel right at home. As the band rolled out its opening songs for the night, I could taste the many flavors of artists I grew up with and loved: Jackson Browne, The Eagles, The Band, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. The easy-going, soft rock made by the five-man group very similarly shadows the composition of Petty and The Heartbreakers. This comes as no surprise when you find out that their latest release and debut record True Blue was produced by Heartbreaker Ron Blair.
The band is made up of the following members: L.A. (Luke Andrew) Edwards on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Alex Vo “The Vietnam Viper” on lead guitar, Jerry Edwards on drums and backing vocals, Jay Edwards and Johnny Blue on bass and keys respectively. Although there was only time for six songs, I enjoyed every one of them especially the last one “Needed You” which featured some amazing harmonizing by the brothers. This awesome opening performance paved the way beautifully for what was to come next with Amanda Shires.
The combination of Amanda Shires’ magical wardrobe, captivating stage presence, Springsteen-like storytelling, and amazing musical talent make her a modern-day rock and roll Tinkerbell, and that night at the State Room she sprinkled the crowd with pixie dust and everybody was flying high. Amanda’s band members preceded her onstage, and maybe due in part because the rest of her bandmates are all male, but when Amanda came on stage last you could feel her powerful yet soft female presence immediately.
Amanda looked dynamite. The hair, the outfit, the accessories, the girl was rocking. What first caught my eye, was that Amanda was sporting a very regal black fur jacket. She later revealed that she had picked it up at a local shop across the street earlier that day. It had some prominent square shoulders and long black fur which seemed to match Amanda’s hair color, shirt, and shorts. Amanda’s hair was done up tight in back into two nice small double buns on each side. In front, a short wave draping across her forehead going from left to right which hung at the base of her right cheek. She had bright, sparkling silver thigh-high boots reflecting the stage light which sat just below shorts reminiscent of a collegiate volleyball player. Very few people could pull those off the way Amanda did. The last thing I noticed were several rings on her hands, they seemed very unique, and I believe every finger on her right hand was dressed with one. I would love to hear the story behind them all someday.
Amanda led off the set with her newest single “Deciphering Dreams” and followed it up with another upbeat jam “Leave It Alone” and it really got the crowd going. She then slowed it down a tad with “Swimmer” and “Pale Fire”. Amanda only made it to the end of “Deciphering Dreams” when fans started to shout “Happy Birthday Amanda!” and the whole crowd joined in for a rough yet heartfelt rendition of singing “Happy Birthday to You”. I could tell Amanda loved it and she was blushing as it happened. I believe that her birthday was technically the next day, but we were within a couple hours of it and it was definitely appropriate. I have a high level of respect for artists that travel to a city to play a show for fans on their birthday when they easily could schedule around it. What a sign of dedication to her craft and her fans.
A few more songs into the set and we were all treated to an incredible version of “Parking Lot Pirouette” with a nice long instrumental intro. Amanda serenaded the crowd with her soft voice and soothing fiddle for the first several songs before ditching her jacket and picking up her guitar. While shedding her jacket she laughed and mentioned that she had named it Brad.
Between songs, Amanda captured the attention of everybody by telling stories from her early years as a performer. She expressed gratitude for early “friends” (really these were strangers at first) on the road that would offer up their homes, their couches to crash on, their washers and dryers for the opportunity to run a load of laundry, etc. Amanda told the crazy story about Tiger Bill, a hippie from Florida who gave her a wonderful present of real tiger claws that had been shed. He told her that they would make her “Bulletproof” and that became the inspiration of a song which she shared with us.
Amidst the stories, Amanda stressed that what she does is not country. She said that when she became a mother, the thought crossed her mind that the last thing she would want for her daughter is to go into top 40 country music. Amanda did go on to mention the importance of women in music and to support female artists at every opportunity. She shared the origin of her all-female supergroup The Highwomen and then finished the night by putting her jacket back on picking up her fiddle and shredding. She played a few of The Highwomen songs which included “Highwomen” and “Don’t Call Me”. The songs were powerful and moving and when Amanda belted out some of the vocals during “Highwomen” I felt chills down my spine.
After going offstage Amanda came back out for an encore of “Look Like a Bird” and a killer cover of “That’s All” by Genesis. You could tell that Amanda was having fun all night long and it was contagious. Her bandmates fed off that energy and so did the crowd. While her live shows may have been put on hold for the time being – as we’re working to beat this virus and help flatten the curve – Amanda has been pretty active live streaming performances via YouTube and social media and keeping spirits high. These are appropriately titled “I So Lounging w/ Amanda Shires”. I would recommend diving into her catalog as well as catching these live streams. When Amanda does get back out on tour please go catch her show as well as L.A. Edwards. You’ll be glad you did.
Day I Die
Reign Over Me
Leave It Alone
My Love (The Storm)
Take on the Dark
Parking Lot Pirouette
Wasted and Rollin’
Break Out the Champagne
When You’re Gone
Detroit of Buffalo
Don’t Call Me
Look Like a Bird
Always the Same