Campus experienced the presence of a rising musical star in the form of soul singer ZZ Ward last Tuesday in the Student Union theatre.
Organized by UMKC’s Activity and Program Council, Ward’s concert was free and provided an amazingly big, new sound.
The concert began with a simply phenomenal opening act by UMKC business major Erica Joy, who was chosen by Ward herself from a selection of entries sent in by various students hoping to open for her. She was the perfect choice.
Joy created a wonderfully crafted, intimate atmosphere, which drew listeners in and boasted an incredible control over both vocals and guitar.
A perfect example was “Come on Home,” where her guiding voice amplified through the theater with a graceful intensity to the point of being almost ethereal. Her sound was old, but not recycled, as though it had been resonating through the earth for years until finally freeing itself on stage.
This performance provided the perfect mood to introduce the combat boot-clad Valkyrie to the stage, ZZ Ward. Bathed in a single white spotlight while caught in the glow of the various multicolored stage lights radiating a golden hue, Ward brandished her guitar and began to play.
With hard-hitting songs like “Put the Gun Down” and “Blue Eyes Blind,” both of which are from Ward’s debut album, and “Til The Casket Drops,” which came out last October, the energy of the concert went up exponentially.
While fully capable of building a feeling of excitement, Ward was also able to tone down the mood into a relaxed ambiance with songs like “Last Love Song”.
At times she created an eerie atmosphere with a rendition of Blues legend Son House’s song, “Grinnin’ in Your Face.”
The combination of her incredible vocals and ghostly harmonica playing made it feel as if somehow she was conjuring a thunderstorm, or some elemental tempest was about to befall the audience.
This was the greatest feeling of being at this concert, this feeling of being emotionally grounded to the music that Ward could deal out in spades. One of the best moments of the concert was when she played a beautiful response to the Etta James song, “Waiting for Charlie,” in the form of “Charlie Ain’t Home.”
This was a powerful anthem with a defining beat and guitar section which, when performed live, makes one wonder about the structural integrity of the venue.
Put simply, ZZ Ward is a force of nature.