Jeffrey Gaines-The Loft at City Winery- NYC

Jeffrey Gaines
The Loft at City Winery NYC – April 14, 2024

Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

After interviewing singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeffrey Gaines, I eagerly awaited his April 14th show at The Loft at City Winery. Speaking with Gaines it was obvious that after more than 30 years in the music business he remains as passionate about creating music and performing as when he signed his first record deal. While the music industry is challenging and tumultuous, Gaines has continued to ride the waves and has never abandoned ship. He’s released eight albums and has toured internationally with a multitude of artists including Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Sting, Heart, Greg Allman, Tracy Chapman and Stevie Nicks. While many of these performances have been on grand stages, in front of thousands, Gaines has also spent much of his musical career captivating audiences at smaller theaters and clubs. It’s Gaines’ soulful, storytelling lyrics and powerful, gritty, heartfelt vocals that have garnered him accolades and earned him a loyal fan-base since exploding on the music scene in 1992 with his self-titled debut album.

While Gaines exudes energy and charisma that can be felt throughout large music venues, it’s even more palpable in intimate environments. These smaller, more personal settings are where Gaines thrives and where his avid fans flock to see and connect with him. Their devotion is not related to Gaines’ hit song, the stunning cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” that Gaines rerecorded for his 2001 album “Always Be,” which reached No. 22 on the Adult Contemporary chart and was certified gold in 2005. Rather, their adoration of Gaines is rooted in their broader love of his full catalog of heart-touching, original music.

The Loft at City Winery is an intimate performance space, with tables directly adjacent to the low stage, allowing performers and audience members the opportunity to closely connect. It’s the perfect setting for musicians to build a rapport and interact with the crowd. On April 14th, Jeffrey Gaines fans filled the tables surrounding the stage, enthusiastically awaiting the upcoming evening of music. Acoustic duo, Lucinda Rowe and husband Michael Connolly opened the show with a 30-minute set of singer-songwriter melodies. Rowe’s original music has been played on radio stations worldwide, and the duo have performed with and opened for artists including, Pat Benatar, Eddie Money, The Guess Who and Tony Bennett. Rowe’s warm, rich vocals, mixed with the pair’s beautiful harmonies, and supported by Connolly’s skills on guitar were the perfect preamble for what was sure to be Gaines’ emotionally dynamic performance.

As the audience sat awaiting Gaines’ appearance he quietly arrived on the darkened stage without fanfare or announcement. Suddenly, vibrantly colored lights illuminated the stage backdrop, and with a grin on his face and a toss of his long dreadlocks, Gaines’ voice filled the room with the dynamic vocals that first caught the world by storm more than three decades ago. Between songs, Gaines casually chatted and shared stories, like one would with old friends. He expressed woes about the unexpected difficulty finding street parking near the winery when everyone was out in NYC on a beautiful spring day. And, as if parking issues weren’t enough, Gaines joked about almost getting mowed down by tourists learning to ride Citi Bikes for the first time…. something many New Yorkers in the crowd could relate to. He also shared treasured memories of moments spent alone with his mother as a very young child, and the soundtrack from this time that helped to mold his musical ear.

Throughout the almost two hour set Gaines played songs from across his musical repertoire, including “Headmaster of Mine” and Hero in Me,” from his debut album, “Safety in Self,” from 1994’s Somewhat Slightly Dazed, “Toast and Tea” and “To Love Her Inside,” from 1998’s Galore, “In Your Eyes,” rereleased on 2001’s Always Be, “To Be Free,” from 2002’s Toward the Sun, and “Feel Alright,” from 2018’s Alright. Whether the numbers were written more than three decades ago or within the past several years, it’s clear to see the personal nature of Gaines’ music from reading the song titles and why his vocals are necessarily infused with so much passion.

Gaines feels equally passionate about his live performances and it’s important to him that his audiences are likewise invested. Soliciting song suggestions from the crowd Gaines reminded everyone, “This is your show. It’s what you want to hear. Every night it’s a different performance.” Fans obliged, shouting out various numbers that Gaines weaved into his set. Urging increased participation, Gaines began loudly clapping his hands, prompting audience members to join him on a energetic, rhythmic number . “I might as well get it now because I know you can’t keep it up,” he teased, as laughter rippled through the crowd. “I know you won’t. You just won’t,” Gaines continued to chide, coaxing the audience to increase their volume. With the clapping at a strong, steady beat, Gaines returned to playing guitar, strumming and singing with ferocity, as the crowd continued to match Gaines’ energy, and happily disproved his naysaying. Looking for more audience feedback, Gaines questioned whether everyone was having a good time. Fans cheers and applause were an assurance that although it was a Sunday night, and Monday loomed large, they were thrilled to be there.

As the evening wound to a close the crowd clamored for “one more song,” which Gaines obliged. As a testament to the connection between Gaines and fans, he remained on darkened stage, to talk, take photos and chat, like one would with old friends. Gaines’ gritty, heartfelt vocals and soulful, storytelling lyrics first put him on the music map more than 30 years ago. It looks like with his continued passion and charisma, as well as the support of his loyal fan-base, Gaines just might go for another 30!

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