• Review

All Smiles: Kevin Devine at SGHR

About a third of the way through his career spanning set, Kevin Devine paused between songs. The Southgate House Revival was full of music–all 3 rooms were in use, each stage occupied. Some of the music below made its way through the ceiling, offering a chaotic, if muffled, contrast to the introspective and passionate performance taking place in the Revival Room.

As the band below continued to play, Devine seemed to have a random memory resurface–though, I’m willing to wager it had crossed his mind at some point prior to stepping up to the microphone. It wasn’t easy to tell which song was being played below, but it must have been a cover, as Devine recalled his first live performance with what would become Miracle of 86. It seems on this exact day 24 years ago, he played a total of 5 songs with his band at a school fundraiser–2 originals, and several covers, one of which was the same song the band below could be heard playing through the floor. While on the surface this was a bit of trivia, ephemera even, I think it actually the most important moment of the evening.

From the start, Devine was smiling. Small, intermittent flickers of joy and surprise and appreciation. Between lines, between songs. It was a Sunday night, the week ahead looming for those in attendance, in the Revival Room, Sanctuary, and Lounge. Devine’s crowd, a mix of 20 and 30 somethings, surprisingly well-balance between males and females, was engaged in a way that only solo performances can elicit. Passionate singalongs. Direct and personal stage banter. Genuine connection. Before moving into the final third of his set, Devine stopped to ask they crowd how they were doing, wondering if there was anything they wanted to talk about–the first question concerning his soon to be 2 year old daughter, a “refusal machine,” as he so eloquently put it. At his encouragement, about a dozen or so fans shouted requests. It was another touching and down to earth moment from an artist whose entire career has been built on creating touching and down to earth music. His earnestness is genuine, and for those in audience, it’s part of what brought them to the Revival Room in the first place.

Those little, almost sneaky smiles kept popping up throughout the evening, and each time, I couldn’t help but think back to my conversation with Devine close to two years ago:

While “hopeful” isn’t necessarily the right word, he’s aware of what his music has done, and, really, can still do. “I’ve just always kind of felt like some people might grow up and at some point might go, “You know, this guy’s really good.” You can hear the self-aware amusement in his voice as he says this. I laugh.

“It seems like if you don’t die, or break up, and you stick around long enough and you keep challenging yourself, people will find it. I realize it’s a hard fought thing, and it’s worth being proud of.”

And you can hear that pride in his voice. “I feel like it’s happening, which is kinda cool.”

This sentiment was apparent as the night progressed, the reason for those smiles more and more obvious. The Revival Room was full of fans who had grown up, who had found him. It was happening.

I would be smiling, too.