Day appeared solo, crammed between opening acts. Despite a tragically brief 45-minute set, he still managed to be as stirring as the other big name artists on the bill. Using echo pedals, looped chords and virtuoso guitar work, Day wistfully breezed through his first LPs opening track, Sorry, So Sorry. He then enticed the several hundred audience members into a massive chorus of Sha La Las with a cover of the Van Morrison classic, Brown Eyed Girl. Days inventive twists and turns in Morrisons signature song gave the familiar melody a jazzy bounce.
Next up was Days new single, Perfect Time of Day. Normally, the song features a full band a rarity for Day. Fans and pundits alike worried that perhaps Day, an artist who has made his living on the college radio circuit, might be heading into the pop mainstream. Mainstream? Perhaps, but if Days live performance at Concert in the Park was any indicator, pop is the last thing on his mind. Perfect Time of Day swelled to almost sublime heights before diminishing into a quiet strum, gaining more from Days spare solo rendition than any top-notch rhythm section could offer.
The best moments of the concert were reserved for its close. Days minor hit, Ghost/Beams of Light shot into the air like a laser once Days loops started to come together. Day managed to perfectly time and execute every chord, guitar slap and echo effect to create a fluctuating hurricane of sound. Above everything was Days superb tenor; smoky enough for the coffee house, his voice is still tender enough to utter the slightest of sighs. Day was at his aching best during the seven-minute dream swirl of his ballad, Madrigals.
Seconds after Day walked off stage, the crowd began to chant, One more song! Much to the dismay of his fans, Day never returned to the stage. Truly, Day demonstrated the value and bittersweet consequence of the old adage, Always leave them wanting more.
With Howie Day at the verge of breaking into the mainstream and garnering serious chart success, his future as an independent and creative artist seems to be in jeopardy. In a world where producers seem to guide artists and suppress their creativity, more than a few fans were worried. Days live performance assuaged all fears that he was heading inexorably towards a John Mayer. Jason Mraz-dominated pop-folk market. His albums may break into the mainstream he may even hire top gun studio musicians to back him up but when you see him live, you can really feel Howie Day and his music breathe.