Jared James Nichols

August 21, 2013
The Roxy Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by LA Butler
Photos by Kimberly Annette

The dark and cozy upstairs performance space On the Rox at the Roxy hosted an all- rock line up that included Jared James Nichols, a tall, lean axe-picking blues machine. Taking stage later into the night, Nichols, accompanied by slicked-wristed drummer Dennis Holm and trigger-finger guitarist Erik Sandin, was the delicious highlight to a rather uneven night of rock. Preceded on stage by Little Caesar, Ape Machine, and Style Like Revelators, it was clearly the night for Nichols, Holm and Sandin.

As is always the case with any band, the challenge is to be musically true to the genre while being innovative, new and memorable at the same time. Rockers can often fall into the category of trying too hard — either guitarists trying too hard to be Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn, or whole groups mimicking diverse bands like Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue, the White Stripes or even the Beatles. What made Jared James Nichols and his band such winners of the night were their innovative mastery of the rock/blues style, and Nichols’ musical superiority when it comes to his triple-threat talent — songwriting, vocals and guitar.

Jared James Nichols and his band opened their set with a fierce selection that made those in the audience with rock fatigue who had started to leave turn around and come back — right up front to the stage. The song was the acid-rock infused, bow-chink-a-bow wow jam “Blackfoot” from Nichols’ Old Glory And The Wild Revival EP. Nichols’ slick finger rails up and down the strings and drummer Holm’s lip-biting intensity as he thumpa-thumped the drums engaged the audience — better still, got them moving and swaying to the rockin’ beats. The song was a perfect homage to psychedelic rock and Hendrix himself.

Nichols has skills. Serious skills. His picks, licks, strums and playful moves took the audience on a musical trip back to the time of hippies and hallucinogenics. Other bands that night had overworked to look, sound and feel like another band in another place and time, but Jared James Nichols made a classic rock style his own, bringing this unique blend to a contemporary audience.

Doing what he does best, Nichols followed up the opener with the bluesy rocker “Let You Go,” also from Old Glory And The Wild Revival. This change up in style demonstrates Nichols’ musical sophistication. He is as fluid and connected to this down home rocker as he was to his first song. There were some great onstage moments here too, with guitarist Eric Sandin. The two compliment each other musically onstage like whisky stokes a fire — just as it goes down to a slow burn, a shot of rye and up come the flames!

“Can You Feel” rounded out the Jared James Nichols musical circle. From acid rock to blues-rock to this foot-shuffling rock-a-billy jam, Nichols nails it all. Known to never want to be the guy whose songs all sound the same — without a doubt, that will never be the case. Nichols ability to move effortlessly from one rock style to another makes for an exciting and utterly enjoyable live performance experience, not to mention a real reason to go beyond the usual single selection download and opt to buy the full EP.

The most soulful turn of the night, “Take My Hand,” an intensely raw and emotional musical journey, showed best Nichols’ broad vocal talents. Stripped and unplugged, this delta-blues ballad dug us down to the bone. With lyrics that asked more questions and gave few answers, Nichols’ raspy notes and raw tone told a pictureless story of blues and pain that pulled the audience in and kept them there.

At the end of the set, the room was full and fired up, not a single person sitting. The audience was up on their feet, clapping and more awake at the later hour than they had been when the set started. Beyond talent, beyond skills, beyond Nichols’ unique musical voice and exceptional songwriting, this great group of rockers were hands- down the night’s winners just for having what it takes to keep fans standing and happy clapping at midnight. That indeed is a talent unto its own.

Check out LA Butler's exclusive interview
w/ Jared James Nichols at The Rock Rag

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