When I first heard Stephen Kellogg’s masterful Blunderstone Rookery in 2013, I quickly realized he was an artist I needed to see in concert. I was new to the music of Kellogg , but immediately impressed by his distinctive music and purposeful lyrics. Unfortunaately, the stars never aligned and he lingered near the top of my must-see list for a few years. Earlier this week, at the cozy Social in Orlando, I finally had the chance to catch him live, and it was well worth the wait.
Kellogg broke through with his band Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers more than a decade ago and has been a prolific songwriter ever since. On this night, we were offered a diverse selection of fantastic songs from across his career. He also entertained his fans with constant banter and frequent interesting stories.
In his music and words, Kellogg comes across as a genuinely good person and devout family man. On this night at The Social he cemented that reputation.
As the lights dimmed, he took the stage under a brightly lit “SK.” The band strolled out to a sweet original instrumental piece, which we learned later in the night was a creation from his daughter Sophia. “Curtain Call” was the first song of the night. Carrying forward his Sixers tradition, he performed the song with his SouthWestNorthEast bandmates huddled around the center mic. As the song ended, they held up their various “cups” and offered a heartfelt toast to their old and soon to be new friends in the crowd.
Sadly, The Social crowd size was underwhelming, but what they lacked in numbers, the crowd made up for with exuberance. With the sparse crowd, the show adopted a bit of a house party vibe, and that made the night just a bit more special.
Kellogg offered a humorous yet insightful glimpse into his writing psyche when he mentioned that he basically writes three songs over and over again – he just twists them a bit based on his current life situation. It was an obvious exaggeration, because as we saw throughout the night, he’s a masterful writer.
Early highlights from the set included a sweet rendition of “Lost and Found” and a nice singalong version of “Fourth of July.” During a humorous interlude, he introduced “Galaxy” as a song about sex, and then kicked into a killer version of the fan favorite.
Kellogg was the consummate entertainer, sharing humorous anecdotes about Bon Jovi, Holly the family cat, his money making “hit filled” career and all of the girls he’s sired.
Highlight songs included “Fathers Day,” “Learn to Live” and “Last Man Standing.” The crowd loved his rendition of “Gravity” but my highlight was “Thanksgiving.” He referenced how the song has changed his life and then slipped into the ten minute masterpiece. It is one of the best songs written this decade by anyone, and it sounded as good live as it did on Blunderstone Rookery.
Playing and chatting about “Thanksgiving” and other tracks, it is clear that Kellogg writes with purpose. He loves his craft, loves his family, friends and fans and it poured through on stage.
After a quick deliberation with his bandmates, Kellogg jumped into the crowd for his last song of the night. He stood at the top step of the pit area, surrounded by everyone in the house and ripped through a rollicking medley of his songs. it was a highlight moment for anyone in attendance and the perfect way to end the set.
His band SouthWestNorthEast was fantastic, as well. Guitarist Brian Fechino shined throughout the set, particularly during a sweet guitar solo piece in “We Say Goodbye.” Bassist Dave “Cookie Dough” Chalfont was having a blast all night and truly shined during a stand-up bass solo on “The Bear.” Jesse Alan Humphrey was behind the drums and was a steady backbone all night despite his unrocklike Chardonnay sipping.
The final member of the band was fiddle player Miranda Mulholland. She had numerous highlight moments throughout the set and also offered up sweet harmonies. Along with drummer/guitarist Andrew Penner, Mulholland forms Harrow Fair, an intriuging two piece from Toronto who opened the night with a nice set that included a unique cover of Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game” and a raucous original “Bite The Way.”
Stephen Kellogg (and Harrow Fair) are out to sea on the Rock Boat this week, but will be back on the road in a few days. It’s a show I highly recommend.
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