Heavy and Light at House of Blues – Orlando Sentinel

Certainly, the tour’s name had things in the right order.

It was “Heavy and Light,” in that order, on the closing stop of the message-laden acoustic showcase of that same name on Monday at House of Blues.

The tour was sponsored by To Write Love On Her Arms, a Central Florida-based non-profit organization offering support to those coping with depression, self-injury, addiction and suicidal thoughts. 

Audience members were offered a printed program with websites and phone numbers for counseling centers. Things don’t come much heavier than that.

Yes, there were musical sets by Will Anderson (Parachute), Anthony Raneri (Bayside) and Fiction Family (featuring Switchfoot singer Jon Foreman and Nickel Creek member Sean Watkins) and other acts, but that wasn’t the main attraction.

As much as the music (or more than the music), the show was a forum for serious, emotionally charged, first-person tales about coping with life’s darker days.

“I was caught in the shame of addiction,” said a therapist in one of the spoken-word segments that bridged the musical acts. “But I can tell you that treatment really does work; recovery really does happen.”

Mostly, the crowd that filled much of the hall’s first-floor listened attentively. On stage and in the audience, the vibe was closer to a church-camp social than a pop concert. Musicians said “please” and “thank you” without sarcasm or irony and spoke wisftully of the tour’s conclusion as if it were high-school graduation day.

One of the hall’s three bars was serving alcohol, but not at a brisk pace. When I accidentally stepped on a guy’s toes in a crowded aisle, he said, “Bless you.”

Musically, high points included a well-constructed set by Anderson, who offered energetic takes on material such as Parachute’s “What I Know.” Raneri’s time in the spotlight suffered because of out-of-tune guitars, but he returned for a solid cameo in Foreman’s brief solo spot before Fiction Family’s fine closing performance.

All the musicians were nearly overshadowed by expressive readings by poet Anis Mojgani, who demonstrated how to be heavy with style. 

In the same way, To Write Love On Her Arms founder Jamie Tworkowski effectively conveyed the tour’s message with recollections of his friend, Orlando film and music producer David McKenna, who died in December at age 33 in a high-speed crash on Interstate 4 in Seminole County.

The night would be a success, he said, “if one person in this room should choose to get help, if one person in this room should choose to stay alive.”

A heavy idea, indeed — and a worthwhile one.

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