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Concert Review: Satellite at The Living Room

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Satellite played their first of what will likely be many NYC shows last night.

Last night, I caught LA/Nashville band Satellite for what was essentially their first New York City show. Only three of the four members (Steven McMorran, Josh Dunahoo, and Erik Kertes, no Mitch Allan) made the trip, so the performance was stripped down in nature. The only percussion was the occasional kick drum. But the stripped down nature really propelled McMorran's powerful voice and made the show a memorable one.

Satellite is a difficult band to describe because I don't think words quite do it justice. Their sound meshes Americana with pop sensibilities, and it all comes together in a very contemporary way. McMorran's voice is the proverbial straw that stirs this drink. It's deep, soaring, raw and powerful. You hear so many shades of recognizable voices in his: Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Jimi Goodwin of Doves. And when McMorran really gets into a song, like he does on their incredible single "Brooklyn," he sounds like if Marcus Mumford dipped into contemporary pop. He sucks you into his world and you feel everything he is feeling with each and every note he hits.

On top of the voice, McMorran has the requisite looks and charm of a lead singer. He and Dunahoo provided all the witty banter between songs, but McMorran also dipped into the serious nature of what some of their songs mean to him. The songwriting and lyrics reveal so much honesty about fear and vulnerability, and because he belts out each word with so much emotion, it's impossible not to get lost in their songs.

Musically, the trio kept things clean. Dunahoo was a jack of all trades, splitting time on lead and acoustic guitar, piano, and even some slide guitar while also providing nice harmonies on vocals. McMorran rocked the acoustic guitar, and Kertes kept things classy on the bass (and occasionally the kick drum). The songs are structured very nicely. While it sounded great in this stripped down form, I really want to hear this group fully formed with some drums backing. Last night, they were able to create a big sound while also maintaining a reserved quality. Some percussion would only enhance that further.

Satellite played through a majority of the new material on their upcoming debut, Calling Birds, as well as a new song that McMorran said will likely appear on their "next" next album called "Vagabond." The group also gave a stirring cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" that turned a faster tune into a burning slow song filled with passion. They finished up with their big single "Say the Words" and a song McMorran said he wants to end every show "forever" with, "'Till I Return."  

Before the show had started, I was told that you just have to see these guys live, then you'll really know why they have the potential to be such a special group. Well, I saw them live, and I'll second that notion. No matter what I say, it doesn't do justice to seeing these guys perform live. I have a feeling they will be back in New York City soon and on to much bigger and better things. 

Satellite's debut album Calling Birds is due out on March 5th. Check back next week for an interview and acoustic performance with Steven McMorran.

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