Cody ChesnuTT at the hi-dive, 9/12/13
Cody Chesnutt at the hi-dive last night, seen through the lens of an iPhone with cracked back (not an aughts-era, first-gen, flip-phone, appearances to the contrary).
CODY CHESNUTT at HI-DIVE | 9/12/13
Between the chill of an autumn-like evening in Denver, and the soggy state of south Broadway, you couldn't have picked a better night for Cody ChesnuTT to arrive in the Mile High City and anoint us with his particular brand of soul. ChesnuTT left no margin for error in the assessment of his hipster cred, donning the same battle helmet, red cardigan, black slacks and vintage cassette-tape T-shirt that he has been seen wearing in promotional photos for the last two years. His aura was pure charisma, taking the stage and defiantly thrusting his guitar in the air to the loud cheers.
The material here was exclusively from his criminally overlooked (and kickstarted, BTW) album, Landing on 100. The album arrived late last year and was quickly forgotten about by most music fans, and disrespected by most music blogs. ChesnuTT clearly believes in the power of his new work, and the way he and his band (keys, drums, bass and guitar) set about recreating these songs was nothing short of extraordinary.
The small-club vibe of the hi-dive lent itself perfectly to the roadhouse R&B of "That's Still Mama," the first single from the album and the first song of the night. People bopped and bounced up and down, couples started grinding on each other and everybody was smiling. Without a lot of fanfare, ChesnuTT went into "Til I Met Thee," the album's second single and arguably the catchiest song released in the past two years.
What's amazing to watch is ChesnuTT's transformation from sheepish, middle-aged, oddball genius into something that you imagine Marvin Gaye would have become had he lived. ChesnuTT bridges '70s beard-sporting, deep-thinking Marvin back to hitchhike, dance-all-night Marvin, and wraps it all up in sanctified love. The result is no less than pentecostal.
It was no surprise when he invoked the healing nature of music as he offered up an origin story for another gorgeous track on the album, "Love is More than a Wedding Day." As the band chugged out the mid-tempo groove, ChesnuTT implored the couples to "dance with your partner if you know you're in love." The couples in this room were way ahead of him.
ChesnuTT is a different kind of star. Fiercely indie and considerably older than anyone you might call his contemporary, he has morphed into a man of the people. He frequently left the stage to sing and dance in the audience, and during "Do Better to the Young," he went so far into the crowd that he disconnected his mic cord. He never stopped singing, or missed a beat, even without a mic. It all felt like a sweet mini-concert for the front six rows.