From one song in, Collier had the crowd in the palm of her hand. She is a masterful performer that knows how to get the most out of a crowd. The 150+ person crowd in downtown Beverly, MA responded to all the energy Collier threw out to them in her show.
The band that Collier brought with her was top notch. Guitarist Laura Chavez has been an in-demand side musician for many years. My good friend Gracie Curran told me ahead of time how amazing she was, but all of my high expectations were far exceeded.
Laura Chavez is in that very small group of guitar players that can make you physically feel the pain they let out in their music. She makes you feel every note she plays, from the howling loud notes to the barely audible quiet notes, every single one has a purpose. The best musicians play everything with a purpose, and Laura Chavez is a master at that.
There are many emotional guitar players, but I haven’t seen many tell a story and get a crowd to connect with it as well as she can. Laura Chavez is certainly one of the best guitarists in the contemporary blues scene today. I hope to see her live again in the future with Vanessa.
The rhythm section of bassist CC Ellis and drummer Nick Stevens was rock solid. They held the band together throughout the whole night extremely well. Ellis is a very subtle, understated player that is a lot more versatile than some might realize. Collier plays multiple styles of music, and Ellis can do them all beautifully.
Nick Stevens is also a versatile musician. He played a unique percussion instrument called the shuitar (pronounced like guitar) as well as playing the drum set. The shuitar is a beat-up old guitar with tambourine jingles and a few other things on it. It is extremely unique and I’ve never seen it before. His drum set playing is very smooth and appears effortless. Stevens and Ellis are the backbones of the band. Every great band has a great rhythm section, and they prove that to be true.
Collier is a monster on the alto sax and sings beautifully, but my favorite thing about her is her songwriting. Her lyric writing is terrific, and none of her songs sound the same.
One of my favorites that she played was called “The Run Around” It’s a real rocker, but had a lot of pain put into it. You can feel the heartache in this song. The highlight of the song is Collier’s sax solo, she made that thing wail with pain. “Bless Your Heart” was another I really liked. Nick Stevens played shuitar on this one and it was really stripped-down. It showed a completely different side of her when she sang it.
“When It Don’t Come Easy” is another favorite she performed. She explained that she wrote it near a river, and she wants to be like a river, as it keeps flowing no matter what gets in its way. The world would a better place if more people had that attitude towards life. This song is another one with deep pain put into it.
Her cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Me Like A Man” might’ve been the highlight of the night. Firstly, Laura Chavez delivered an outstanding, emotional guitar solo that moved the entire audience. After that, Collier walked into the crowd with her alto saxophone. She walked right up to me and gave me what looked like a death stare while she was playing her sax. And the solo itself was amazing on top of that.
Although she’s only in her late twenties, Collier is a master sax player and plays with the soul of someone twice her age. When she plays solos, you can see how amazed the other band members are of her skill. That’s something you don’t find often.
If you have never seen Vanessa Collier live before, change that. Her career is on the rise, so see her at a small venue while you can. Vanessa Collier is the real deal! Find out more at her official website: VanessaCollier.com.