ZZ Ward | The Gothic Theatre | May 29th

ZZ Ward playing to a sold-out Gothic crowd (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)

I feel that it’s only right that I start off this review with a sincere apology. When I first heard ZZ Ward’s “Put The Gun Down” when it came into rotation on KTCL, I liked the song, but wrote it off as another girl with a good voice and a catchy song, but not much more that. I assumed that this song would phase in and out, and that I wouldn’t hear much else from her. But in the almost ten months since then, I have gone from passively enjoying the song in my car, to seeking out her performance at SXSW, and now falling in love with her as a performer and musician through her show last week at The Gothic Theatre. I have been proven entirely wrong, and now am proud to say that I think we’ll be seeing much more of Ms. Ward for years to come.

Opening the show was UK-based artist Martin Harley who caught the crowd’s attention in a way I haven’t seen in quite some time. Playing good ol’ fashioned jailhouse blues, his style and passion was breathtaking. Rather than playing his guitar normally, he had it sitting on his lap, using a finger slide, and crazed strumming motions - something you don’t get to see every day. I didn’t get a chance to grab any photographs, but this is a musician you MUST look into. His sound was so raw, it was refreshing to hear such great blues, especially when it’s coming from a man who looks quite like a lost Mumford brother. 

Up next was Fort Collins based You, Me, & Apollo. I’ve seen them play before, but not in quite some time! Last I saw lead singer Brent and this band of musicians was at The Walnut Room two Octobers ago, opening for Churchill. I remember them complementing Churchill’s slow, sad, and contemplative sound perfectly, but on the heels of a new EP, I watched a new band come to life on stage Wednesday night. This group fit this bill just as well as they’d fit the last time I saw them, which was shocking considering how different each of the shows were. This time around, the men of Apollo filled the room with passionate, up-tempo blues, much more upbeat than the songs I remembered. It seems like this new turn is treating them well as they are out as main support for ZZ Ward on multiple tour dates. As different as it was, I really enjoyed the bands performance, and loved their version of “Stuck in the Middle With You”, which closed their set.

A very dynamic and broad age group was in attendance for the show, but there was no mistaking that they were all there for the same reason: the crowd roared when ZZ Ward took to the stage, kicking off her set playing her radio single “Put The Gun Down” first thing. I was SO pleased to see her start her set with the single, almost announcing that she has nothing to prove to these fans, and was more interested in playing them a proper set than stringing them along, forcing the passive concert-goers in attendance to wait to hear the song they were interested in. This almost drew me in more, captivating me, making me eager to hear what else she had in store. Telling stories to the audience, and playing 3 songs acoustically while sitting nearly on the edge of the stage, there was no wall to tear down between Ms. Ward and the crowd that night. Telling the crowd “you know I grew up listening to Etta James, right?”, she explained how she wrote “Charlie Ain’t Home” as her own answer to her favorite song by Etta, “Waiting for Charlie to Come Home”. Accompanying herself on guitar and harmonica throughout her set, anyone who doubted her musical talents were proven mistaken very quickly in the evening. 

She smiles so much during her set, it’s almost hard to believe she could have ever been mad or sad enough to write these songs, but she delivers them with such emotion it’s undeniable. This girl, in my opinion, is bringing about the modern-day blues revolution this generation has been waiting for. The fans surrounding me sang along to literally EVERY word song after song, making it clear that ZZ Ward has won over Denver’s hearts, I can only hope that she continues to see the same success in the rest of her travels. Check out my interview with ZZ HERE , and be sure to listen to her album “Till The Casket Drops”, available everywhere.

-Maddie

ZZ Ward (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)