John Paul White Bared His Soul at Campus Theatre
A packed house gathered inside the Campus Theatre to witness the Grammy Award-winning John Paul White grace Denton with a performance that was intimate in spite of the venue's large size. The show was made possible by Greater Denton Arts Council as they look to continue presenting a strong series of concerts.
There was an obvious excitement in the air as the crowd clapped endlessly after an introduction by Midlake's Eric Pulido. White immediately displayed an easy sense of humor as he plugged in his guitar.
“I either need to do this quicker or you need to clap longer,” White said.
What followed was a single voice and guitar commanding an entire room with a minimalist set. The audience were willing listeners that kept quiet. It's a different kind of show when there aren't idle conversations detracting from the music.
White began with a cover of Slim Whitman's, "I Remember You" while the audience sat in quiet judgement. Sliding his notes and carrying with ease, transitions to falsetto seemed like grace. White's cover of a legendary musician is the closest one can get to bringing Slim Whitman back from the grave. As the song ends, the reign of enchantment over the audiences breaks for a bursts in echoing claps for the pleasure of White`s performance.
It`s minimal, it`s personal, and it’s truly phenomenal. White is powerful in voice, honest in connection and humorous in transitions between his sad songs. Thumping his guitar string by string, chord by chord, he guided the captive listeners beautifully into each song.
White followed up with the first song off his album Beulah, which was released in 2016. He sang “Blackleaf,” with eyes closed while he moved his body gently to the melody. As he swayed he sang, “there is always a second time around,” in a quiet voice loudly projected in a captivating vibrato. As the song ended, the audience gave more healthy applause, and White used this as an opportunity to interject his lighthearted banter.
“I can tell we`re going to get along juuuusssssst fineeee,” White said in appreciation of his crowd.
In an interview with KUZU before the performance, White said he'd been in town working on a project with Eric Pulido. One wonders how serious he was when he said, "I think I bought a house at some point yesterday. I hope y'all have room." Denton has all the room for great musicians.
While doing one of his caring guitar tunings White said, “So the reason I am here---a big part of it, is that Eric and the boys asked me to do a collaboration with them at Echolab. It was better than I hoped. It was kind of like a blind date.”
Then White warned the audience that he is not there to cheer them up with his performance.
“Some of the songs sound darker than they sound,” White said, “This song is called hate.” The audience cracked up in laughter.
White is in a stage of his artistry where he's tired of evangelizing people that are dead in tribute to them and how they inspired him. He decided that it's time to start recognizing people that truly inspire him while they are still alive. One such person is country musician Hugh Prestwood, who White paid homage to by proceeding to perform a cover of "Ghost in this House." His selection of covers as well as the styling of his new music showed a longing for a revival of classic country that's hard to find in Nashville these days.
Through the first few songs White established a connection with both his music and talking. That connection built up throughout the rest of the evening. Part of what made that connection thrive is that White shared deeply personal stories.
When White was 7-years-old his grandfather passed away, and he was in tears. He had so many memories with his grandpa that included fetching beer and a shared love of baseball. One thing he didnt understand when he was so sad at his grandfather’s passing was why his grandmother wasn't crying. So, he asked her why.
She responded that while White`s grandpa was on this earth she cried so much not wanting to lose him that when he passed she wasn't crying because she had no reason to, as she knew he was in a better place. White joked that this was a lot to take in as a 7-year-old boy.
“I mentioned I am not here to cheer you up right,” White said, as he begins the song “Simple Song,” which he wrote for his grandpa. “You`re gonna die,” White sang. “You`re gonna die and younger eyes are gonna cry.”
White enchanted the audience with his honesty and soul-baring music. His talking sessions were a nice uplift from the cavern of emotions that his music delves into.
After finishing his set, White thanked the audience and walked off the stage to a standing ovation. He came back to play two more songs for an audience that likely hopes he seriously bought a house in Denton. It was the kind of night where the crowd not only learned a lot about John Paul White, but they also learned a lot about themselves.
John Paul White's Spotify
Header image photographed by Robert Warren
Header image layout designed by Mateo Granados