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Phil Vassar – The Entertainer
By: Brianna Nightingale, CSO Contributing Journalist

Because his band hadn’t traveled with him on the night I saw him, Phil Vassar did his entire show with only his guitarist/singer, Jeff Smith. Spinning around on the piano, playing the piano and harmonica simultaneously, and having his guitarist bartend (more about that later) were just a few things Vassar did during this intimate concert.

After singing a few of his own songs, including “I’m Alright,” “Six Pack Summer,” and “My Next Thirty Years,” Vassar announced that he would like the lights turned on so he could see his audience; this made it a more interactive show. He continually looked out into the audience with a large grin on his face, obviously having a great time, and so were we. Because it was a smaller audience than he is used to, Vassar reassured those in attendance by saying “I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, but I like ya’ll. Ya’ll are fun.” 

About halfway through the show Vassar and “J-dawg,” as he called his guitarist eased their way into “Last Day of My Life.” The song was beautifully done, of course, and extremely moving. 

One of the songs he played that he did not write was “Daniel’s Song,” by Elton John. He began playing the song and then jokingly said “This one’s by a guy name Elton John. Have you heard of him? He’s gonna be big someday.”

Throughout his performance, the guitarist also acted as Vassar’s bartender. It was obviously all part of the show as a little bar on wheels was rolled out onto the stage at various intervals; once with a paper sign taped on it that said “Play the snoopy song” and as the cart came across the stage, Vassar began playing the well-known song made famous by the Peanuts character named Schroeder.

When people talk about talented artists, many of them probably don’t imagine piano players playing the harmonica using their left hand while playing piano with the right. Vassar, however, did a terrific job doing just that during “Piano Man” by Billy Joel and he made his show even more entertaining by including a bit of history and other information about many of the songs he performed. For example, before he sang “Carlene,” he told us that the song was actually written for Cindy Crawford; a fact I didn’t know. He also demonstrated his versatility by including a bit of a comedy that show cased his quick-wit and vibrant personality. “One evening, while I was bored as hell,” he said “I learned something,” he then proceeded to give us his impression of Willie Nelson. 

Although he did not do an encore, it was an outstanding show that effectively showcased his versatility. This remarkable pianist not only entertained us with his own hits but also impressed the audience by easily covering multiple songs they requested throughout his performance. If you get a chance to see Vassar in concert, regardless of the size of the venue, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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