By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer
Alex Preston’s music surprised his fans, including his mother, on Nov. 8 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.
“I am blown away by the sound of the full band. This is my first time hearing them,” said Alice Philbrick, Alex’s mother. “When you’re on the show, you have to do what the producers want, but now Alex is doing what he wants,” Philbrick said. “That funk sound is just him.”
Preston began his set at 8:20 p.m. after a video collage of his auditions and performances on American Idol. As the lights went up Preston himself was revealed in a red collared shirt, blue jacket and jeans.
Preston was welcomed with a standing ovation from a full house. He performed familiar acoustic covers such as “Too Close” by Alex Clare, “Story of My Life” by One Direction, and “Say Something” by A Great Big World. On “Say Something,” Preston harmonized with fellow singer-songwriter and girlfriend, Jillian Jensen.
But then the music changed.
Preston swapped his acoustic for a bright red hollow-body electric guitar. Behind a mesh curtain waited a bassist, a drummer and a second guitarist.
After a mellow intro to “Love Letters,” an original by Preston, the curtain ascended with the crash of a cymbal, setting a higher energy, electrified tone for the rest of the evening.
Lightly strummed jazz chords, foggy guitar licks and solos, a bubbly funky bass, and crisp bluesy drumming characterized the band’s sound.
To compliment this atmosphere, green spotlights pin wheeled through thin fog, and the lighting on the band changed hues with the music’s mood.
Preston’s encore was a performance of “Fairytales,” an original song that began his journey on American Idol. The crowd accepted Preston’s invitation to stand up and sing along on the verse.
“I love you guys so much, thank you,” Preston said. “It’s a night of just fun, you know?” Preston added, thanking the crowd for their enthusiasm. The show had sold out within nine hours of ticket sales opening, according to a master of ceremonies who introduced Preston.
The show, named “Coming Home,” was a thoroughly home grown production. Preston was backed by students he used to play music with at UNH. These were Ian Sleeper on the bass, Dustin Newhouse on guitar and Charlie Weinmann on drums.
Preston also shared the stage with his former band teacher from Souhegan High School, Carl Benevides. Benevides inserted blistering saxophone solos into three of the songs, often interspersed with scat solos from Preston. The crowd received these very well.
After “Love Letters,” the set included “Close to You,” covers of “Trick of the Light” by Matt Corby and “I Don’t Need no Doctor,” first recorded by Ray Charles, “Get Up Get Down” and “BMFH.”
“It was so exciting to see everyone on the big stage,” said Jen Greer, the aunt of Ian Sleeper, the bassist.
The show was received well by volunteers and audience members as well.
“It was a fabulous concert,” Kathy Stone, a volunteer for the Capitol Center for the Arts said.
“I can’t even find words to describe [the show],” Sophie Shenian, an audience member said. Shenian had come all the way from the border of Rhode Island to see Preston.
There were hundreds of audience members waiting in line after the show to meet Preston, shake his hand and get merchandise autographed.
Merchandise was also available for the acts that performed before Preston. Jillian Jensen took the stage first. Her performance included a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” with the accompaniment of her own acoustic guitar and a fiddler.
At the end of the concert, Preston thanked the entire production team for their work on the show. “Everything went right,” Preston said.