Oh, Andrew Belle is in our veins and after Thursday’s show at SPACE Bar, we cannot get him out…
On a crisp and breezy San Diego night, the line to get inside SPACE Bar spilled into the sidewalk. The venue was sold out for Chicago based electronic pop act, Andrew Belle. Formerly known as The Hideout, we made our way into this popular City Heights venue and settled in to enjoy the show.
Opening band Praytell is a collaboration between married couple, Jon Geurra and Valerie Straton Guerra. This Civil Wars meet Shakey Graves duet immediately drew us in with their soothing harmonies, poetic lyrics, and interactive storytelling. We peered into their personal lives as they shared the inspiration behind each song with the audience. Whether it was a fight between the couple, Valerie’s realization of how the power of music can bring everyone together (she is a social worker in Chicago), or a trip home that they couldn’t afford to take for Christmas, each song elicited raw emotion.
Valerie’s dangling earrings shimmered in the spotlight as she sang and her black bell sleeves flowed with the music as she played the violin. Jon bounced back and forth between the guitar and the keys and kept the atmosphere jovial with a few lighthearted jokes.
Together, they brought the purest love story to life through their lyrics and stage presence. In their final song they sang, “Better together, I think we are”, and we have to agree with them. They really had a way of making the listener feel like picking up an instrument and writing a song in their living room.
If you want to hear more Praytell, check out their first single Better Together on Spotify.
Andrew Belle came out swinging with an energetic performance of Dive Deep. As projections of landscapes and crashing waves flashed across the screen behind him, he’s also backed by none other than Praytell. Aside from their new duo project, they’re also Andrew Belle’s band mates: Jon on keys and Valerie on backup vocals, drum machine, and violin.
The room seemed painfully divided, with the front half swaying and singing along to nearly every word and the back half drinking and loudly chatting over the music. While we didn’t fault the venue for this, we couldn’t help but feel like the chatter detracted from the performance. A few songs in, Belle tactfully addressed the issue and asked those who wish to have a conversation to please take it outside so that the people who came here to enjoy the music can do so. Thank you, Andrew, for being bold enough to say out loud what we were all thinking to ourselves.
The show enthusiastically carried on with hits like Static Waves, where some of the band’s original folk roots shone through, and The Enemy, one of his top singles off of the album Black Bear. As he played his top streaming Spotify track, In My Veins, we couldn’t help but notice the apparent lack of female vocals from Erin McCarley. Maybe it’s because we’re suckers for harmony, but we would have loved to hear Valerie jump in on and fill in for Erin on vocals for that piece.
Belle continued on with a personal interactive Q&A from social media, providing the audience with an intimate interview right on stage. A fan asked, “What has influenced the evolution and change in direction in your music?” Belle responded that he watched the movie “Drive” and the dichotomy of the heaviness of the movie against the lightness and airiness of the soundtrack really resonated with him and he decided to shift toward ambient electronic music.
The show crescendoed with the audience singing along to the giant, soaring chorus from Down and the perfect melody from Belle’s top hit Pieces, which was inspired by his wife. Subsequently, Belle shared with us that encores give him anxiety, and “we all know what’s coming” so he’s just going to go ahead and play his last song. Considering that encores have become a little less organic than they used to be, we fully support this concept and Belle’s honesty. He unplugged and stood up in the crowd for a quiet and intimate acoustic encore, playing “When The End Comes.”
It was a late weeknight show. It was packed and almost uncomfortably warm inside. Some of the patrons were more interested in catching up on their work week drama than enjoying a calm, intimate musical showcase… But Andrew Belle seemed to appreciate the turnout and the love from his fans.
Photos By: Christine Heyne
Review By: Lauren Pettigrew