More than a memory

Gavin DeGraw leaves fans in awe

The Spectrum

At 15 years old, Gavin DeGraw decided he wanted to be a performer. The revelation hit him while he was sitting in the backseat of his family's car, driving home from a Billy Joel concert.

"If you're dreaming big, it can happen. If I can do it, you can do it," DeGraw screamed into the crowd.

Last Thursday, Gavin DeGraw was the headline act at UB's Center for the Arts. Supported by artists Rozzi Crane and Parachute, the night was filled with screaming girls, scale-breaking vocal notes and powerful musical solos.

DeGraw moved around the stage with an energy that a man half his age would struggle to attain. His voice and tone never faltered to anything less than intense.

Some of DeGraw's finest moments of the evening came when he sat at his piano. His fingers were instinctive on the keys - the notes he played changed the tone from strong and demanding to sweet and intimate in a matter of minutes.

The emotions came through when DeGraw sat at his piano and played his rendition of the Billy Joel song "Always A Woman." There was no band, just DeGraw and the previously narrated context of how DeGraw began his career - as a young man opening for Billy Joel. Everything was stripped back to the sound of the piano and the huskiness of DeGraw's voice.

But then the band came back and the song was elevated to a new level. There was a musical intensity that matched DeGraw's story and voice.

"I thought it was unreal," said Hayley Zeidman, a sophomore health and human services major. "I think he was amazing live and he sounds just like he does on iTunes."

Musical intensity came to the forefront in DeGraw's mash-up of Adele's "Rumor Has It" and his own song "Every Little Bit." DeGraw's accompanying band had their time to shine. The strong bass line intensified the piercing electric guitar and led the way to an electric guitar solo that reverberated around the theatre.

The pacing of the show was meticulous. Everything was planned to the last detail - from the lighting changes to the set list. The tempo switched between fast to slow and back again in a matter of songs. But the audience wasn't confused, in fact quite the contrary. They followed DeGraw with every change and cheered in appreciation.

When DeGraw stopped singing, the audience carried on singing his lyrics back to him, without being asked.

Jen McNutt, a visitor to UB for the evening, drove just shy of four hours to show DeGraw her devotion:

"It was amazing - it's actually our second show in two weeks," McNutt said. "We drove all the way from Pittsburgh for this."

Throughout the night, DeGraw's fans were treated to a selection of his most well-known and well-loved songs: "Chariot," "Leading Man" and "Not Over You" and had the audience moving and singing along to the pop-rock big hits.

But the audience really got excited when the opening riff of DeGraw's infamous "I Don't Wanna Be" started. The sea of people (mostly teenage girls) that filled the space between the front of the stage and the chairs behind threw up their smart phones to capture the moment and swung their other hand in the air in time to the beat.

Then the drum solo came and DeGraw threw his body around, dancing to the intense rhythms and cymbal crashes.

The song ended and he walked off stage with authority. The audience watched as he threw up his hand horns in perfect time with penultimate slam of the electric guitar.

The evening showed the audience a boy still in love with his childhood dream and living every second of it. And there were no signs of DeGraw's dreams dwindling in the near future.