He played new music and songs from his old album, and covered the hits of Smokey Robinson and Sam Cook. And he did it all to thunderous applause from the audience.
“I challenge any of those punk-ass rock bands to play any of this shit,” he yelled out to the audience, guitar in hand.
Gavin DeGraw succeeded and then some when the College Union Board (CUB) brought him to Kendall Hall on Sunday night.
“A lot of people were actually asking to see Gavin DeGraw come to the College,” Nicole Gough, CUB event coordinator for the concert, said. “There is a huge fan base here for him.”
DeGraw, who released his debut album, “Chariot,” in 2003 featuring all self-penned songs, performed to a sold-out auditorium and the applause of 800 students.
“I fell in love with the sound of music,” he said. “Before I became a musician, I was a fan of music first. You’re a fan first and then you start trying to emulate things you like about it and all of a sudden you have a trade.”
Although he said he finds a great power in music, he did not always want this career. He said when he was young, he believed he was actually going to be an ophthalmologist.
“Then I went to a concert, and I said, ‘Wow, this is healing, this is medicine,'” DeGraw said. “This is what I love to do, I love playing music.”
The audience felt that love as he walked onstage to a standing ovation and screams emanating throughout the auditorium. He walked over to the piano and took a seat at his instrument, and the applause swelled as the first notes were played.
“His music is appealing to so many people, and the people who don’t know every song on his CD will recognize the ones they hear on the radio,” Gough said. “But most of all, he was able to interact with everyone while onstage and after the performance, which goes above and beyond just standing onstage playing music. He got very into the music he played, so the audience got into it as well.”
DeGraw began his set with several of the songs from his album, ncluding “Follow Through,” his latest radio single.
“It’s about two people coming together and they’re sort of beginning a relationship and, upon discussion, they learn about each other’s failed relationships,” he said. “They’re talking about what they’re looking for in a future relationship.”
DeGraw was able to rile the crowd during covers of “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations and Sam Cook’s “Cupid,” among others, when he climbed on top of the speakers and then proceeded to walk out into the crowd and across the arms of several seats. Standing in the middle of the crowd, he encouraged the audience to clap and sing along before he danced with a girl in the audience and returned to the stage.
This became the perfect opportunity for two girls from Zeta Tau Alpha to stick a note in DeGraw’s pants pocket. Several songs later, they yelled out to him to check his pants where he found the aforementioned note. Later in the concert, a few more girls placed a note on his piano in another attempt to communicate with him.
DeGraw continued with several songs not on his album, prefacing many with comments to connect with the audience.
As he prepared to play a song about stalking a girl, he explained the situation behind the lyrics.
“I thought it would help her if I showed up everywhere she went,” DeGraw said to laughter from the crowd. “If I’d had a crush on Biggie or Tupac, they’d still be alive.”
Although he has a huge fan following now, it took DeGraw some time for his career to really take off. His first record deal offer came when he was 19, but he refused it at first, saying he was making more money at a lumberyard than the record company was willing to offer him.
“For the first part of my negotiations with the record company, I think . I was really enjoying saying no to these companies and I was enjoying being courted by them,” he said.
DeGraw eventually did sign a deal with the legendary Clive Davis in the spring of 2002 and followed with his debut. He recently re-released “Chariot” as an acoustic version, titled “Stripped.”
“I didn’t feel like the original recording had everything,” he said. “I liked the recording, but I felt like it was missing a little bit of that homegrown feeling and I wanted what fans that I had already interested in the record to hear something a little bit different and that felt a little bit more authentic.”
Although it may be some time before he releases a new album, he does have a few pieces he is working on, including one about prescription medicine, called “Medicate the Kids.”
He also plays a new song in concerts concerning alcohol or, as he calls it, “the other medicine.”
With this song and others, DeGraw continued to play off the audience and the screams and requests thrown at him. At one point, two girls yelled out, “We Belong Together!” referring to one of his song titles.
DeGraw whipped his head around to face them, yelled, “That’s right!” and began playing the song.
Probably the loudest applause and most excited reaction came for a song he played toward the end of the night. To preface it, he looked out at the audience from behind his piano and said, “This song’s about having your own damn identity. Hard to come by lately.”
With cheers emanating from the auditorium, he began playing his first single, “I Don’t Want to Be.” This song is also featured as the theme song for the WB’s “One Tree Hill,” something DeGraw said he was not keen on at first proposal.
According to DeGraw, the show’s executive producer, Joe Davola, approached him after the album had been released and said he wanted to use the song for a new coming-of-age television show.
“I thought the best-case scenario would be a TV show I used to watch when I was a little kid called ‘The Wonder Years,'” DeGraw said, referring to Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” “I used to look forward to seeing that show every week just because of that 30 seconds of that song, so best-case scenario would be that. It definitely helped to move the song into being played in that circle of Top 40 radio stations and it helped get more play on VH1 (and) MTV.”
According to DeGraw, the song may not have been played otherwise. “I think a lot of it is due to the image of someone who writes songs. Maybe I don’t wear enough body oil on my naked chest to get play on a lot of video stations and I don’t pretend to be in some half-assed gang from Los Angeles,” he said. “I didn’t have the right cartoon-like imaging to appeal to a lot of that sort of programming. The show helped me get that sort of play without having to be seen. I just want people to hear me.”
The concert also featured Dirtie Blonde as the opening act, with Amie Miriello as the lead singer. Their 45-minute set included songs from their album to be released in February off Jive Records, as well as several covers.
Miriello said she began playing music upon deciding she was a terrible actress at an arts boarding school. After teaching herself to play guitar, she joined with her best friend, Jason, an acoustic guitar player, and began looking for more band members.
The band’s sound includes a very ’70s influence and can be defined by Miriello’s strong vocals.
In this, their third gig together at the beginning of their first tour, they found themselves opening for Gavin DeGraw and, according to Miriello, they are excited, but nervous.
“This is very nerve-racking for us, but we’re very excited and happy,” she said. “It feels like a dream come true.”
Overall, the concert was a huge success and many met DeGraw in a special meet and greet afterward.
“I thought it was really awesome, obviously, and I liked how he combined covers, new songs and the album,” Lauren Windle, junior secondary education/history major, said. “I liked how interactive he was with the audience.”
Breanne Murray, junior marketing major, and Noelle Jaeger, junior accounting major, have seen DeGraw perform in larger venues, but like the intimacy of the small concert hall better.
“It was nice that we could see him in such an intimate setting,” Murray said.
DeGraw’s performance, which included an encore of two songs, including his album’s title track “Chariot,” ended in a standing ovation as he thanked the audience and shook the hands reaching up towards the stage.
“If you want to make something happen, don’t waste any time,” he said. “If you fall in love with something that you’re good at and you can make it your career, you must pursue it. One regret that I never want to have is because I didn’t try to make something incredible happen for myself.”