On Saturday night, Sanders Bohlke closed out his tour as special guest on Rachael Yamagata’s “Dealbreaker Heart Tour” with a bang, stepping onto the stage at the Bowery Ballroom, capturing the undivided attention of several hundred strangers, and lulling them into a state of wonder and amazement with his music. This was undoubtedly a common scene night in and night out on this tour, as Bohlke, in support of his fantastic new album Ghost Boy, showcased his own growth while opening for Yamagata in venues across the country. On this night, despite playing a brief set of only seven songs, Bohlke’s haunting voice and soulful guitar melodies enveloped the sold-out space and were met only by spectators’ cheers, applause and words of praise.
Accompanied by only his guitars, Bohlke eased into his set with “Search and Destroy,” a simple yet powerful introductory song that firmly established his presence on stage. While the steady electric melody drew the crowd in, Bohlke’s expressive vocals captivated the audience and the room fell almost completely silent. By the time he stepped back from the microphone to belt out the lyrics “And I need my soul, and the sail needs the wind, Cause I get so lost time and again…” Bohlke would have the room’s undivided attention for the remainder of the night. He went on to perform a number of his best solo tracks, all of which elicited a strong reaction of pleasant surprise from the audience. The layering of vocals and guitar riffs during “Fighter Pilot” mesmerized many, while Bohlke’s performance of the emotionally heavy acoustic song “The Weight of Us,” received a loud ovation and shouts of “Thanks for playing!” and “You’re awesome!” from the crowd.
Aside from pleasing the audience with his complex and rich music, throughout his set Bohlke also demonstrated how he has grown since starting his tour with Yamagata, and more specifically since his February 13th performance at the Mercury Lounge. His improved stage presence was the most noticeable difference. Standing before the Bowery crowd, Bohlke appeared stronger, more focused and more confident than his previous New York City performance. This gave his songs a more significant emotional impact and really just made them sound even better than before. Similarly, despite the serious tone and melancholy message of his music, Bohlke quickly established a jovial rapport with the audience and was cheerful throughout his set. Although some of this communication with the audience was an explanation forced by Yamagata’s closing night revenge pranks—to get back at Bohlke she had her crew post spreads of nude women on stage and wrap a condom over his extra microphone—overall Bohlke was far more talkative throughout this set than on February 13th, something that gave him a human face and endeared him to Yamagata’s fans.
While Bohlke played only one song from Ghost Boy, he appeared to craft his set around songs that he performs well solo. Consistent from his previous performance, “The Weight of Us” definitely marked the height of his set, with a gradual build of acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals, as well as a message of personal transformation that resonated well with the audience. Bohlke’s performances of “Somewhere,” and “Solder” were also highlights. While the former adopted an acoustic melody and sweet lyrics that declare his commitment and dedication to his lover, the latter took on a much darker tone, closing the set with a heavy political message and Bohlke’s stirring vocal refrain.
With his strong live performance on this tour, Bohlke has undoubtedly garnered a number of fans from within Yamagata’s following. Like his February 13 performance at the Mercury Lounge, Bohlke once again captured the attention of an unfamiliar audience and used his soulful melodies and powerful vocals to make them his own. Hopefully the next time Glide reviews a Bohlke performance, he will be the one headlining.
Search and Destroy
The Loved Ones
The Weight of Us