Alternative/indie R&B and Soul singer Van Hunt isn't quite a household name in the mainstream music world, but over the years he's developed a sizable and highly devoted fanbase. And part of the reason why is his live shows; he's not one of those artists who relies on pre-recorded music or vocals during his concerts. Every note played or sung at most of his shows is done live and in the moment. And that's readily apparent on his new concert album, Live at the Troubadour 2011, which was recorded live in Los Angeles with a full band and released in the U.S. March 13, 2012 via his own label, Godless Hotspot. Van's off-kilter style and sometimes odd song arrangements are definitely not for everyone -- particularly lovers of traditionally structured R&B/Soul music. But for Van's core fans, Live at the Troubadour should be a nice, fun listen.
An Acquired Taste
There's no doubt that Van Hunt's music -- a cross between R&B, Soul, rock and Funk -- is an acquired taste. He's had a few minor hit songs over the years, most notably "Dust" and "Down Here in Hell (with You), but his musical style is so unique, it can't be easily categorized. His quirky lyrics, unique vocal style and use of rock-based guitar in his songs can be off-putting to people used to traditionally formatted songs. But in a live setting, the free-flowing feel can actually be an asset. And much of that flow comes across during Live at the Troubadour, which was recorded as Van was touring in support of his most recent studio album, What Were You Hoping For?, which was released in September 2011. A number of songs from the studio album appear on the live one, including the single "Eyes Like Pearls," as well as much of his better older material, including "Seconds of Pleasure" and the aforementioned "Dust" and "Down Here in Hell."
As a product, Live at the Troubadour 2011 is perfectly imperfect. It does a solid job of showcasing the energy and feel of a live show, complete with between-song banter, imperfect vocals, audience interaction and occasionally sour musical notes. Also, the Troubadour only has a maximum venue capacity of 500 people, so the concert, which was performed Sun. Oct. 16, has a very intimate feel to it. As mentioned above, it's unlikely that non-fans or newcomers to Van's music would be wowed or won over by this CD, because although he's talented, his type of music goes against the grain when it comes to mainstream, radio-friendly R&B music. That said, for his core group of devoted fans and live music aficionados, this is definitely a release worth hearing.