Twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter Howie Day is aware how much he’s changed in the past four years. Recently riding in Ohio to a stop on his latest tour, Day pondered his personal development: “I think anyone would agree that you grow up more between 18 and 22 than any other four years.” Certainly this is true, and Day’s new record Stop All the World Now is proof that one’s musical evolution is a reflection of one’s self-evolution.
Like John Mayer and Jason Mraz, Howie Day has made a career for himself coming from the Dave Matthews school of sensitive and sophisticated guitar-playing every-guys. Until the release of Stop All the World Now and its tour (which stopped at Detroit’s St. Andrew’s Hall last Wednesday night) Day lacked something which these two other troubadours already had: a band.
For Day this was indeed a kind of blessing. His excellent reputation is based in large part on his dynamic one-man show. With pedals and effects Day would become his own band underneath his particularly passionate vocals. His promising debut record Australia was a relatively stripped-down affair.
For Stop All the World Now Day tapped Jump, Little Children guitarist/songwriter Jay Clifford among others, and the resulting record will likely propel Day to the top of VH-1’s Countdown and into the CD players of women both middle and college-aged. Given the company Day has shared in the past two years, his more grown-up vibe does not come as a surprise. Opening dates for yuppie favorites Sting, Sheryl Crow and Tori Amos, his evolution into a more mature artist was accelerated. He now has the record to prove it.
Stop All the World Now features Day’s fluid and expansive tunes, given even more room to breathe by his band’s full sound, complete with keyboards and lush arrangements (he is joined by an orchestra on five tracks). Many of the tracks recall U2, but with an acoustic guitar front and center. The key to this comparison is the presence of steady rhythms and echoing, ringing electric guitar that Bono and the Edge have built their music around. “Perfect Time of Day” is the best example, its sweeping sound punctuated by the pounding of a bass drum under textured guitars.
Despite this solid studio achievement, Day’s performance in Detroit last week accompanied by his band was not nearly as impressive as his past solo shows. Day did in fact perform with only his guitar and effects for the middle portion of his set, captivating the sold-out club with raw musicianship. The rest of the show seemed generic in contrast, Day rather unenthusiastically leading his unremarkable band to each song’s pinnacle. The ride up is much more interesting when it is entirely in Day’s hands, dependent completely on his guitar and emotiveness.
Judging by the crowd’s reaction, however, the entire concert was a complete success. The swaying couples savored every note and passive stare Day dished out, many guys appearing as though they wanted to comfort the seemingly lovesick singer after the show as much as the girls. Though many new Howie Day fans are thrilled to have their man perform at all, it wouldn’t be surprising if the performances most coveted and enjoyed by fans in the future are those where Day appears all by his lonesome. Until then, watch for Howie Day and his band on VH-1.