The Wood Brothers: Flynn Center, Burlington, VT 10/7/09

Opening for Bruce Hornsby at the FlynnCenter October 7th, The Wood Brothers won over the headliner’s audience. Chris and Oliver’s sly humor and understated country blues made an almost immediate connection and remained effective for the duration of an unfortunately abbreviated forty-minute set.

Earnestly praising the ornate venue certainly ingratiated guitarist /vocalist Oliver Wood with the attendees, but it was more important that he also distinguished himself by his pitch-perfect singing on songs such as "Chocolate on My Tongue." The elder Wood’s facile guitar playing on both acoustic and electric instruments also revealed an immersion in the music that made it sound as unforced and intimate as an informal jam with Chris at his right. With the bowing of his stand-up on "Liza Jane," the younger Wood Brother unveiled the innovative approach he maintains with his other regular collaborators, John Medeski and Billy Martin (as in Medeski Martin and Wood). He also contributed unusually complementary vocals as well as stylish harmonica playing during the course of "Loaded:" it was a reaffirmation of how The Wood Brothers are learning to convincingly play to sizable crowds.

Chris’ understated showmanship, underscored by his self-deprecating comment following that tune, is also indicative of the means by which the Wood Brothers,over the course of their four years of roadwork, have slowly but surely taught themselves how to project to larger audiences than first greeted them in much more intimate venues than the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. Clearly making the most of this highly-visible spot opening for Hornsby, they’ve earned the privilege, but, judging from the increasingly vocal response and crowd participation as this performance evolved, the duo has elevated their stage presence without sacrificing the subtlety at the core of their approach.

Even two new original songs received lusty acclamation this mid-autumn evening, In fact, The Wood Brothers’ performance was so satisfying in total, no doubt more than one attendee might’ve been tempted to forego the act at the top of the bill.

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