Thankfully, He’s Not There Yet

2 May

If you’ve never heard of Eric Hutchinson, that’s alright.

Despite releasing two highly enjoyable albums of soulful pop songs — including his latest, Moving Up, Living Down —having a couple of videos that’ve made VH1’s Top 20 countdown, and being an opener for Kelly Clarkson’s tour a couple years ago, mainstream success has so far eluded Hutch.

And I’m cool with that, because I like him (actually, I have for a while), and sometimes being a fan of a singer or band is more fun when they’re on the verge, and success hasn’t yet tarnished their vibe or image.

That’s why last night, Hutch played the Paradise here in Boston — as opposed to, say, the House of Blues, where fun. played just a couple weeks earlier — and it was a more intimate, laid back show that allowed Hutch to better connect with his fans, many of whom were from the area’s colleges.

That, too, seemed appropriate given that Hutch himself went to Emerson, and not too long ago was busking on Newbury Street. In fact, during the show he made many references to the city and his experiences here (working at J.P. Licks, for example), and even performed an amusing impromptu jam about how we shouldn’t punch folks from Harvard in the face — or, in the case of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook.

But that wasn’t why I went to see Hutch. I was there to hear the music.

The 90-minute show included tunes from both albums (a 50/50 mix, as far as I could tell), plus three covers — “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Stand by Me,” and “Santeria.” Highlights included “Oh,” “Outside Villanova,” “OK, It’s Alright with Me,” “Food Chain,” “Not There Yet,” “Breakdown More,” and the hip-shaker “Talk Is Cheap.”

That said, Hutch’s most well-known songs, “Rock & Roll” and “Watching You Watch Him” definitely got the crowd going, and I particularly enjoyed hearing “The Basement” live.

Truthfully, though, as good as Hutch and his three-man band were, I think I enjoy the studio versions of some of the tracks more than I enjoyed the live versions. But no matter. Chalk it up to Hutch still being an up-and-comer, and the fact that these mid-tempo songs may just be better with a more polished sound.

“I’ve come a long way, but I’m not there yet,” Hutch sang at one point. It’s true.

And it’s not that I’m rooting against him, but I’m kind of hoping he’ll stay this level of popular for a while longer and not get “there” too quickly, so there’ll be plenty more opportunities to watch him perform and get even better in similar settings.

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