Allen Stone’s Gratitude Graces Tampa Theatre
As soon as the house music paused, R&B and soul singer Allen Stone slickly hopped on stage in a red beanie hosting his shoulder length curls, a maroon sweater and gray slacks. He folded his hands together and bowed toward the cheering audience before he slung an acoustic guitar over his shoulder and launched into his intimate show.
Excited children and an even more ecstatic older crowd piled into the venue for the Jan. 16 stop of the “Building Balance” tour.
Stone’s vibratos boomed through the entire theatre, resulting in immediate applause from the audience for his first number, “Hold it Down”. Stone noted that he was stoked to return to a live audience, “human beings who have blood pumping through their brains,” after playing 4,000 concerts to his laptop. Instantly, we felt comfortable. Like we were spending time with an old friend.
But, what makes Stone stand out from other artists is his unparalleled stage presence and his effortless ability to bounce between falsettos and the deepest bass registers with a swift move of his jaw. He took a moment to demonstrate the various impersonations and voices he uses to entertain his two-and-a-half year-old son, Rudy. The audience rumbled into laughter when he showed off his Cher impersonation.
Ever the consummate professional, Stone knows his audience. After ending on a reverberating vibrato, he joked with the audience that Tom Brady is the second coming of Jesus Christ, as the Buccaneers won a game earlier that day.
Stone is a humbled performer, and a grateful one at that. He doesn’t let his fame affect his friendly attitude and natural charisma. Instead, he uses his platform to embrace his followers.
A quarter way through the show Stone delved into a story about his previous tour: “Allen Stone’s Karaoke Extravaganza,” which served as an opportunity for fans to sing with him. Audience members wrote songs they wanted to sing on a piece of paper, dropped it in a box and lucky guests were randomly picked. Stone said that two of the singers on stage at the New York show impressed him so much that he hired them to sing backup.
The audience thundered with applause when said-singers, Brian Johnson and Stephany Mora, popped out of the side door and joined Stone on stage. Their soothing voices harmonized expertly as they backed Stone’s powerful vocals to sing “Consider Me,” a letter to a potential lover.
Stone’s shows emphasize the importance of living in the moment, and in his presence, time stops. He can sing anything to entrance the audience, and he did so Sunday. One second he was reprising a stripped-down, acoustic version of Afroman’s “Because I got High,” joking, “I told you that song holds up”, then singing an unreleased, heartfelt song about his son.
Stone even took a moment to tribute beloved TV dad Bob Saget, who passed away on Jan. 9. Stone cast an electric guitar over his shoulder and with one breath and a strum, he beautifully covered “Everywhere You Look”, Full House’s theme song.
Stone’s shows transport you down alleys of human condition, love, loss, gratitude and genuine joy. He wants you to have a good time and live in the moment, but he also begs you to question your privilege. His song “American Privilege” is a self-aware tune acknowledging the advantages of being white in America. “American privilege keeps blurring my vision, inherited sickness,” he sings. And in 2022, a day ahead of MLK day, he chose the perfect song to conclude his set.