This is going to be an obvious statement, but great music makes you feel something. Rumours
is still one of the highest selling albums of all time because it's impossible to hear that record and not feel the joy, triumph, and turbulence of modern romance. To listen to "I Don't Want to Know" is to hear the heights of being in love while also hearing the depths of desperation and the delusion not to be lonely anymore. Fleetwood Mac's lyrics weren't exactly Shakespeare, but not only did they speak to the universal truths of love, you could hear the band's heartache and lust in each tone of Lindsey Buckingham's guitar and the plaintive vibrato of Stevie Nick's caterwaul. You can't fake that authenticity (and the band's overwhelming passions would ultimately lead to the group's dissolution).
And this is true of all of the most long-lasting acts and the bands we form the strongest attachments to. They translate the most vulnerable and intense emotions and experiences of our lives into melodies and hooks and riffs and the very leitmotifs that define our memories. If I'm feeling trapped and desperate about my future, "Mistaken For Strangers" by the National creeps its way into my brain. If I'm in love, I'll spontaneously start humming Elton John's "Your Song." If I'm running on neuroses and self-loathing, Brand New creeps in. There is great music that I appreciate at a purely intellectual level, but there's no music that I go out of my way to play if it doesn't hit me at some primal emotional core. And like Fleetwood Mac, North Carolina Americana pop-rockers Delta Rae
have that rare gift to bridge the universal and specific in human desire and longing, and their ability to translate it with even more intensity and magnetism live makes one of their concerts an event that isn't to be missed.
Before Delta Rae's concert Tuesday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, I knew the three songs of theirs that they played in a session for us back in the Spring. I liked those songs a lot, but I knew almost nothing else about the crew beyond the fact that they were from North Carolina, three of them were siblings, and that they impressed the hell out of me the day they played for us. But, like the best bands, Delta Rae's show worked on a level devoid of prior personal connection with their music. Here was a band that I hardly knew that swept me away on a tidal wave of emotion, melody, and the communal ecstasy of the connective power of music.
Delta Rae, on record (which I've listened to more since the show) or live, understands how to connect with their listeners. They understand that a live show isn't simply an opportunity to "play" your music but to translate the sprawling, messy truth of your passions and themes through a symbiotic exchange of energy with your listeners. And there was no point Tuesday night at the Music Hall where I didn't feel Delta Rae's energy. There was no moment where I didn't feel the hope and optimism of being young and the sense that the whole world was laid out before you and you only had to reach out and grab it. There was no moment where I didn't feel the simple but overwhelming pull of young love and the emotional turbulence that follows. I felt the shaded forests and glens of home -- Delta Rae weren't the only Southerners in attendance that night. I felt the dust kicking up behind my car as I spun out into the great unknown.
And you can't undersell how important it is that Delta Rae can achieve that -- especially if you aren't already familiar with their music. I love challenging music as much as the next person, and the best music is often the works that are challenging and emotionally evocative. But, today, so much music feels devoid of sincerity and vulnerability in feeling. But Delta Rae let down their emotional guards on stage. They obliterated the distance between audience and performer, and they achieved this through the unbridled intensity of their emotions and music.
All of those Fleetwood Mac allusions at the beginning weren't just so I could talk about one of my favorite bands or the way that Delta Rae reminds me so much of that group's early years or even the way both groups utilize the tools of country-tinged pop-rock. Delta Rae made those connections explicit when they segued into a cover of "Rhiannon" during "Bottom of the River." And as somebody who couldn't get Fleetwood Mac comparisons out of my head the whole show and who woke up to "Rhiannon" on my alarm clock in high school for years, it was a moment of true connection to the past, present, and future of music that hits right at the core of what it means to be young and to love and hope for a little bit more than whatever is on your doorstep.
Delta Rae's star is on the rise, and it only takes one evening with them to understand why.