My Friday night was dominated by Steve Grand, who had a gig at XL followed by an appearance at a fundraiser for Bailey House at the Lexington. Yes, the Chicago boy has been in NYC this week, and these were his first appearances I was able to catch. (He sold out shows at Subculture as well, where he interrupted one song for a pee break, and bartended for Andy Cohen...and he's not even a ginger!)
XL did a good job converting itself into a cabaret space, with tables covering the dance floor and a keyboard for Steve center stage. A sport-jacketed Steve came out on time and energetically worked his way through original songs (including singles "All-American Boy" and "Stay," the latter of which I think is superior to the former, and unreleased works "Whiskey", "Good-Bye to Your Man" and "Loving Again") and covers of songs by Lady Gaga, The Beatles and Elton John.
I had been asked not to video anything, so I don't have my usual HD video of every word out of the performer's mouth. But every single other person in the place had a cellphone up, so check YouTube.
Steve was in excellent voice. He seems to sound better every time he hits a stage. He's also an ingratiating performer, one who frequently reminds his audience that he would like to hug us, and then proceeds to do so with his smile, his warm vocals and his open-armed gestures that punctuate nearly every song.
At one point, he recalled how music execs warned him about releasing "All-American Boy" as his first single, because he would "pigeon-hole myself." His response:
On the down side, he flubbed the lyrics to "Your Song" pretty badly (which I'm sure will helpfully find its way to YouTube) but recovered with charm and a reminder that he's only been someone that people want to hear sing enough to pay for it for about two and a half months. To that, I'd just say his habit of drinking whiskey onstage might be something to rethink. But then as a teetotaller, I find his obsession with whiskey off-putting. Not completely off-putting. I mean, it would take a pretty hot fire to put me off of Steve Grand completely, let's be real. But I don't need an adorable dude barely old enough to drink telling me the love of his life is alkyhaul.
As for forgetting lyrics, lookit, they all do it. Tina Turner and Cher read TelePrompTers, Madonna forgets the words to songs the entire planet could sing in its sleep and I'll never forget watching Debbie Harry flub the rap from "Rapture" on a rare U.S. TV gig a few years ago. So...no big deal.
The crowd was mostly men in their thirties on up—some way up—who looked more like Hillary voters than Obama voters. He isn't a country singer (which XL and everyone else continues to pitch him as), but he definitely has a Springsteen working-class vibe, so coiffed twinks—while not invisible—were few and far between.
Afterward, at 9PM, Steve had a daunting meet-and-greet line to work his way through. Something like 95 tickets had been sold, and definitely over 100 people (okay, men) made their way up to him for quick chat, autographs, his trademark hugs and both pro and amateur photos. I've been around a lot of meet-and-greets, and I have to say his team worked people through quickly without short-changing anyone. And it was important to do so, since he was expected across town at 10PM for that Bailey House charity event.
I was playing photographer, so I shot the show and his meet-and-greet with my pro camera. The results were pretty good, and I got to experience what it's like to be that guy with the camera. Luckily, there was another, actual, pro on hand to do the shots that the fans will see online, because that kinda pressure I do not need. P.S. If you're going to a meet-and-greet and going to take your own photo, buy a damn camera. Cameras on phones are such crap!
Sidebar: Was happy to run into beautiful Joshua Michael Brickman again, whom I first discovered at Broadway Bares. He was pouring drinks at the bar, so gave me a couple of frisky bartender poses. His Harold Lloyd glasses are everything:
Cabbed to the LQNY and dashed in. Nobody asked for the VIP ticket I'd purchased, probably because it was winding down and because Steve's road manager had actually arranged for all the XL meet-and-greeters to get free access to this event.
Just as I arrived, Steve hit the stage, tearing through "All-American Boy" and—after the audience enthusiastically asked for it—"Stay."
Offstage, Steve was exhausted but met with everyone who wanted to meet with him.
A surprise attendee turned out to be Doc Tay Tay aka Taylor of Fratmen aka the love interest in "All-American Boy." It was sweet seeing them together, like if Romeo & Juliet had ended with the kids jumping up from death and going, "Just kidding!"
An even more surprising attendee was out Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, who fangirled it up with the best of us. (Cue Examiner.com to write an article about how Steve is a gay Republican. Maybe he is, actually! I haven't asked.)
I wanted to pull Steve for a few personal, posed shots (this is what photographers do at these things). At first I was getting a no, but then I was getting a warm yes, so I was told to go get ready where I wanted it to happen. I wanted it on the stage in front of this ridiculously amazing art on the walls, these neon arrows, all of which would be pointing at Steve. Could not wait to make beautiful photos.
Then my flash malfunctioned (I thought it died, but it was in a coma), so I wound up with terrible shots, which was embarrassing as hell. But Steve was kind enough to indulge me, and for that I am grateful. His road manager and advisor and friend Chris even helpfully snapped a shot of me snapping Steve.
Along with Steve and Tay, I did get to finally meet entertainment reporter/sizzle-twink extraordinaire Peter Dee.
So even thoughI had to miss every other performer at the Bailey House event, it was still a good way to end a Grand week in NYC.