Friday, October 5, 2007

Emerson Hart @ Congress Theater

Former Tonic frontman goes solo, cranks it up

Emerson Hart sure is a trooper. Not only was he the red-headed stepchild of tonight's lineup at the Congress Theater -- opening for Collective Soul and Live, really? -- he announced to the crowd that he actually had a child this morning. "I love this song. I wrote this song, and I will never get tired of playing it," he told the crowd a few songs in, before announcing that he was a new dad to daughter Lucy. "And I'm dedicating this next song to her." He then launched into Tonic's best-known song, "If You Could Only See," prompting the half-full room to pass each other knowing glances, acknowledging they finally knew who this guy onstage was. (And making this reviewer, a devoted Tonic fan, very happy.) Hart's first solo outing post-Tonic, Cigarettes and Gasoline, was released on Manhatten Records in July and has done reasonably well. But the thing is, his beautifully crafted folk-pop begs for an intimate setting -- something not provided by the cavernous main room at the Congress. The amps and mic were turned up to 11, distorting his gorgeous, slightly gritty vocals and masking the harmonies on guitar. And much of the eclectic crowd -- mulleted middle-aged men and mulleted young hipster kids alike -- was simply waiting for the main acts during his meager half hour set. Other than "If You Could Only See," Hart played all songs from Cigarettes -- but segued into a cover of the Who's "I Can See for Miles" -- and closed with its lead single, "If You're Gonna Leave." We're sure it sounded great under all the ringing in our ears -- next time, come back to Metro or Park West so we can hear you better. And sneak in "Sugar." Please. - Kim Jeffries