Live Review: Charlie Cunningham & Blind Pilot – Irving Plaza, NYC

Charlie Cunningham gave a mesmerizing opening performance for Blind Pilot at New York’s Irving Plaza. Hailing from England, Cunningham separates himself from the ever growing pack of indie singer-songwriters with his exceptional and distinctive guitar skills. His melodies are stunning, and the touch of flamenco in his music makes for a remarkable mesh of folkloric influences.

He performed his album, Lines, acoustically, so while we were unable to hear the ambient elements that come forth in his record – which add weight, space, and volume to his songs – we were still able to witness his extraordinary talent with just him and his guitar.

Pleasantly surprised by the rowdy NYC crowd, Cunningham embraced our cheerfulness and gave us a beautiful show. You could hear the subtle Spanish influences particularly in Born, Telling It Wrong, and in his gripping performance of You Sigh. A crowd pleaser was surely Minimum, a popular single off his album with a piercing hook. He also did a playful, acoustic rendition of M.I.A.’s Paper Planes which concert goers had good fun with.

Hopefully it’s not long until he begins headlining his own shows, because it’s then that we’ll get the full effects — synths, voice echoes, and all — for an aurally chilling experience. Charlie Cunningham’s music is dreamily melancholic and introspective, and he’s definitely an artist to watch.

Blind Pilot followed with an amazing performance as well, drawing from all three albums to everyone’s delight. Fan favorites like 3 Rounds And A Sound, One Red Thread, and Half Moon were not excluded, and I especially enjoyed their feel-good, sped up version of Moon At Dawn off their latest album And Then Like Lions. Springing with joy, we all sang along and bopped around throughout the show. Many song arrangements were triumphant, with the exception of a few like Just One, where lead singer Israel Nebeker and two band mates delivered a minimal, intimate rendition.

While their studio albums are glowing representations of folk-pop and reflective song writing, Blind Pilot uses the medium of live performances to showcase their versatility in musical interpretation — creating an elevating experience for us listeners.

An outstanding concert, start to finish!

Julia Kwan