There are few places I’d rather spend a Friday night than at The Columbus Theatre in Providence. This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard me say that. Every show there is special, whether it’s in the larger room or the more intimate upstairs. But when you put two over-the-top talented singer-songwriters on the small stage in the same night… well, you’d be a damned fool to miss it.
The main attraction last Friday night was Ian Felice, front man and main songwriter for the lovable charlatans The Felice Brothers. A songwriter’s songwriter and talented poet, this year Felice released his first solo album In The Kingdom of Dreams and is currently wrapping up the tour behind the album. Recorded with his brother, Simone, heading up production, Felice describes the Kingdom as a place he created that mixes fantasy with reality, and a place he learned he could escape to after a year that saw him exhausted from touring, the current political climate and the prospect of becoming a father.
“By the end of 2016 I was run down from touring America, riding out the storm of political mania and juggling a few personal dilemmas (including the revelation that I would soon be a father). The Kingdom Of Dreams became a place where I could escape from the numbing flood of data that permeates modern life and try to unravel pieces of my past, rearrange memories with dreams or lines from my imagination and construct something that functioned outside the limits of reality,” said Felice.
As one would expect from an album of that nature, the set performed that evening at the Columbus held the audience wrapped and hushed through most of the songs, only to burst forward with applause and ovation upon the conclusion of each.
While I’m a big fan of the richer, more raucous approach the Felice Brothers are known to take to performance, I have to say I won’t be passing up any future opportunities to listen to Ian play solo.
Opening the night for Ian, was Nick Panken, the main vocalist for and one of the driving forces behind the always amazing Spirit Family Reunion. Those in attendance were lucky to catch quite a departure for Nick, as not only did he play a collection of songs from an upcoming solo EP all by his lonesome while sitting statuesquely in his chair, he also played those songs exclusively on electric guitar. Something that’s a new-ish venture for the talented musician and, as it turns out, was an approach which certainly paid dividends by filling more of the space between stirring vocals and well-placed injections of harmonica. As with Ian, if Nick is playing music in you’re area, it’s highly advisable that you be there.