Grant Lee Phillips lives again

Once a generation, a handful of musicians transcend thecommercial mainstream burnout and earn the label ofsinger-songwriter from fans and critics alike. Grant Lee Phillipsis among the singer songwriters of his generation, and at Berbati’sPan Saturday night he proved why his music is as much a legacy asit is an evolution.

Opening for Phillips was Marcus Eaton, a one-man guitar loopingshow. Eaton squeezed every ounce out of his acoustic guitar,looping beats from the body, overlaying spacey synthesized riffsand throwing in some white-boy reggae. Eaton may not be everyone’scup of tea, but he does what he does well.

With a style somewhere between Dave Matthews and John Mayer,Eaton attracted quite a frat crowd in front ofthe stage, which may be a sign of the types attractedto his music. All in all, Eaton is a skilled live performer and isgood at what he does, but it seems everyone is doing the same thingnowadays.

As a venue, Berbati’s was a perfect fit for Phillips. Theintimate setting mirrored Phillips’ musical style – close to theheart and honest. Fans were able to see Phillips’ exciting stagepersona and lively chatter entertain and fill in the gaps betweensongs.

Phillips opened with a couple of tunes from his Virginia Creeperalbum, most notably “Lilly of Passion,” a light and upbeat tunethat really set up the mood for the rest of the evening.

Immediately after showcasing tunes from Virginia Creeper,Phillips went right into a crowd pleasing retrospective of his ’90salt-rock cult favorite band Grant Lee Buffalo. Throwing out classictunes such as “Mighty Joe Moon” and “Jupiter and Teardrop,”Phillips worked up such a sweat that someone threw a towel onstage.

Phillips kept with the GLB theme for most of the evening, themid-show highlight of “Bethlehem Steel,” in which the dynamicsinger brewed up a storm with his wailing tricked-out acoustic12-string guitar and crooning howls, conjured images of anantiquated not-so distant past.

Throughout the show Phillips rightfully praised his backingband. Vocalist Cindy Wasserman added velvet depth and fullness toPhillips’ voice in such a way that equals, or arguably surpasses,former GLB bassist Pauly Kimble. Portland native Kevin Jarvisprovide ripe beats on the drum kit, and stand-up bassist SebastianSteinberg provided the deep tones that kept the mood consistentthrough out the whole show.

True highlight of the show came during the encore.Phillips hopped back on stage solo, which was not entirelyunexpected, then scratched his head a few times and summoned therest of the band for most energized part of the hot evening.Phillips saved the best for last, starting the end with GBL greats”Truly, Truly” and “Mockingbirds,” and finishing off with classics”Fuzzy” and “Shining Hour.” The crowd screamed and pounded formore, but the L.A. troubadour of past, present and future wasspent.

Grant Lee Phillips has the amazing ability to craft albums thatcreate a consistent atmosphere and mood throughout the entirelisten. What is even more amazing is Phillips’ ability to do thesame during a live show. The key is Phillips’ ability to evolve hismusical style from album to album, yet still maintain his creativeintegrity and heart.

The more tales Grant Lee Phillips spins the greater hisreputation as an artists grows among critics, but nothing can matchexperience of watching the arcane singer-songwriter weave his musicto life in the flesh.