Outpost in the Burbs’ Light of Day concert ends WinterFest on an upbeat note

outpost light of day review 2024

MICHAEL STAHL, portraitsbymichaelstahl.com

Performers at the Light of Day benefit in Montclair, Jan. 27, included, from left, Jon Caspi, Joe D’Urso, Adam Ezra, Gordon Brown, James Maddock, Anthony D’Amato, Amanda Cross, Reagan Richards and Danielia Cotton.

One of the encores of the Light of Day benefit concert that took place at The Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair on Jan. 27 was, naturally enough, the Bruce Springsteen-written “Light of Day.” And it may have been the folkiest version of this rock anthem, ever. Most of the 15 musicians strummed acoustic guitars or clapped their hands as they sang along, with Deni Bonet playing violin and Derek Cruz and Seth Saltzman sitting shoulder to shoulder, playing the same piano.

You can watch this number as well as the show’s other encore, an equally spirited version of Willie Nile’s “One Guitar,” below.

MICHAEL STAHL, portraitsbymichaelstahl.com

James Maddock, with Adam Ezra behind him, at The Outpost in the Burbs.

Five acts shared the headline set of this show: James Maddock, Joe D’Urso, Adam Ezra, Danielia Cotton and Anthony D’Amato. And in a separate set, five more opened the evening with two songs each: Emily Grove, Jon Caspi and the duos of Williams Honor (Reagan Richards and Gordon Brown), Amanda Cross and Cruz, and Bonet and Chris Flynn.

Also, Saltzman played with D’Urso, guitarist Anthony Mullen joined Cotton and, following the show’s “Songwriters in the Round” format, all the performers stayed onstage throughout their set, occasionally joining others on backing vocals or extra instrumentation. Maybe some of these collaborations were discussed or worked out beforehand, but many of them seemed spontaneous.

The show closed this year’s Light of Day WinterFest and took place on the weekend after most WinterFest events (including the main concert at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, where most of these performers were on the bill). This year is No. 24 for the Light of Day, which raises money and awareness in the fight against Parkinson’s disease and related ailments, and began presenting shows in Montclair in 2015.

D’Urso, who is the president of the Light of Day Foundation, is the only musician who has performed at all the Montclair shows, though most of this year’s artists have been featured at many of them, or at least a few. Only D’Amato and the Cross & Cruz and Bonet & Flynn duos were doing it for the first time. It is a marvel to see, at these shows — and I’ve been to all of them — a group of individual acts, with their own careers and often very different approaches to music, coming together as a cohesive unit for one night only.

MICHAEL STAHL, portraitsbymichaelstahl.com

Danielia Cotton, with Anthony D’Amato at left, at The Outpost in the Burbs.

Maddock, as usual, created a sense of wistfulness and wonder on his own songs (“My Old Neighborhood,” “Runaway,” “Lavendar Blue”) and played some masterful lead guitar for other artists (standing out the most on Ezra’s moving song about fatherhood, “Lay Lay”). Cotton was at her best on her intense, gospel-flavored “Good Day”; D’Amato on his Dylanesque “C’Mon Armageddon” (which he has recorded with his band Fantastic Cat); and Ezra on the evening’s hardest-rocking song (even with an acoustic guitar), “Steal Your Daughter” (see video below).

D’Urso performed his inspirational “Hold On” and his nostalgic “Step Right Up,” and paid tribute to the late Melanie — who died on Jan. 23 at the age of 76 — with a cover of her 1970 hit “What Have They Done to My Song Ma.” “When I was a little kid, I used to sing this song around the house,” D’Urso said. “Karmically, I thought it would be the right thing to do, tonight.”

Highlights in the opening set ranged from one with just vocals — Grove’s mesmerizing a cappella “Johnny Lee” — to one that represented, I’m pretty sure, the first time an artist at one of these shows has done a song with no vocals: Bonet’s “Never Enough,” featuring just her masterful violin playing, accompanied by Flynn’s guitar. Earlier, Bonet had sung her optimistic “Why Not You?,” featuring lines such as “Why not you?/Why shouldn′t you be the lucky one that it happens to?/Something’s got to turn out right/Somebody′s dream has got to come true.”

Amanda Cross and Derek Cruz at The Outpost in the Burbs.

Cross sang in a commanding blues growl on “Hell or High Water,” the title track of her recently released debut album. Williams Honor performed “First” (see video below) — from their 2022 album eX — as well as a powerful new, unreleased song, “Signs,” about receiving messages from loved ones who have died.

Caspi sang, as one of his two numbers, his raucous drinking song “Raise ‘Em High!,” which, as Caspi mentioned, benefited from Jesse Malin’s guest vocals when Caspi and his band The First Gun re-released it in 2022. Malin has performed at many past Light of Day festivals, but had to miss this one after a spinal stroke in May left him partially paralyzed.

“Yesterday was his birthday,” Caspi said, “and you can’t think of Light of Day without Jesse.”


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