If there was ever proof that Thursday at the Square offers something for every taste, this was it. Joan Osborne played to a dwindling, mostly older crowd Thursday, a performance whose appeal depended largely on the individual's taste. Buffalo News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers raved about the evening, calling it "the sort of moment people who live for music live for" and "an evening equal parts sensuality and musicianship" in Friday's Gusto. A younger male concertgoer commented that he would rather "dig out my eyeballs with a sharpened straw" than listen to another minute. Another pointed out: "The music's really good. At least until she starts singing."
To her credit, Osborne, backed by a truly spectacular band, offered a diverse evening, with softer crooning melodies, edgier R&B tunes, pop, rock and many segues in between. Despite the variety, Osborne's fan base is mostly composed of older business types, and many of the under-20 set did not appear interested in broadening their musical horizons to incorporate her sound. This may have been due to some acoustic issues at the venue: step off the lawn to either side or behind the monument and it became difficult to decipher the lyrics, or in some cases, to hear the singer at all. Consequently, the amount of effort it took to get the full experience was a sizable deterrent. Threatening weather early in the evening yielded a significantly smaller crowd than in past weeks: almost half the size of that warranted by Gnarles Barkley, and nowhere near the astounding volume at Augustana.
Nevertheless, opener Will Hoge was totally invested in the moment, giving the few in attendance a rollicking show of good down-home Southern rock with hints of jazz, blues and country peeking through on several numbers. A soliloquy about the differences between life in Nashville and Buffalo gleaned a few chuckles and hoots of agreement, and the band made a valiant effort to ready concertgoers for the coming event.
It would be libelous to say that singer-songwriter Joan Osborne, who recently released "Breakfast in Bed," was not completely immersed in her performance. Even the casual observer could tell she was deep in her element onstage, appearing totally comfortable in her soulful, heartfelt melodies. She interacted frequently with the crowd, giving her all to her dedicated fans, and appearing to truly enjoy the experience.
For those willing to give her a chance, Osborne's enthusiasm, ear-cracking high notes, jazzy lows and hip-swinging beats did not disappoint. Overall, the sounds of this week's Square are best compared to the buffet line at a good ethnic restaurant: of a high caliber and rife with variety, but still a smorgasbord of a specialized sort.
Lizz Schumer will be a junior at St. Bonaventure University.