What saves Joshua Radin's music from the realms of adult contemporary hell is an element of despair, the 3 a.m. sheet-gripping kind. Radin's music has been featured on shows like Scrubs, and he's topped the iTunes charts a few times over. His newest and fourth album, Underwater, is smoothly produced by Kevin Augunas, who also worked over Elliott Smith and Cold War Kids, two artists who probably share some of the same fans as Radin. This stuff is pretty, charming, and a little broken. Lock up your daughters.
I'm surprised by how small the audience is at the Buckhead Theater, but not disappointed - it adds to the music's intimate vibe. Say what you want about chick rock; having sat cross-legged on the floor of Aquarius Records for Iron & Wine, and also having danced like a mom on ecstasy to many a Sean Hayes set, I am here to tell you that chick rock performances are, at their best, the shit.
The audience is mostly female, and Radin is unabashedly hitting on every single one of us, at the same time. This is not hyperbole. About his first song, "Anywhere Your Love Goes," he has this to say: "It's not a love song to a lady. It's a love song to the crowd."
Back to that despair thing. Radin's lyrics aren't original, but the music itself gives them wings. Take this bit from "The Fear You Won't Fall," his closing song ...
"And I know it's easy to say / But it's harder to feel this way / And I miss you more than I should / But I thought I could, Can't get my mind off of you."
If you haven't felt like this, you are either a cyborg, or still in your first relationship. But if you have felt this way - or better, are currently feeling this way, the live delivery of such lyrical content, which falls flat and hard on paper, is kind of crushing. Radin manages to whisper and sing clearly at the same time. How do you even do that? His accompaniment of upright bass, mandolin, drums, and keyboard are layered on with a delicate touch. The stage is decked out in antique lamps and furniture, and I almost wish we were all sitting in armchairs with big glasses of something red or brown.
Radin's stage banter is far and away the most flirtatious I've ever heard. He says that "Today" is about a sophisticated woman he met in France when he was 16 - the lyrics are from a poem he wrote, but never showed her. The fact that he can get away with such a narrative is testament to his musical talent and deadly charm. I've seen him in video footage, though thankfully not tonight, pull off a fedora.
Because I am of the gender that has a lot of estrogen raging through my veins, which is to say that I freak out every time I see a baby, and have never watched an episode of Scrubs without crying (true story - ask my ex), I ask a guy for his opinion. Here is what Brent Bowser has to say: "The show didn't blow me away, but it didn't completely let me down. Joshua engaged the crowd plenty, and really let the audience relax. Also, if you're a single guy, you might want to go to his next show, if you catch my drift."
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