“It’s always better live,” purred Con Brio frontman Ziek McCarter from the stage at The State Room on Thursday night. And while I’d argue that in the age of auto-tune and lip-synching that’s not always true, in the case of Con Brio, he’s exactly right. I’d heard legend of the band’s electric performances—like their set at Austin City Limits that set the internet on fire and locally, their opening set for Grace Potter at Red Butte just a month ago—but this was my first time seeing them.
McCarter came onto the stage after the rest of his band had assembled there and as the six of them played intro music. And as he approached the microphone, onto which a scarf was tied—hello, Steven Tyler—it was clear that he was a force of nature. He wore satin pants, a jaunty fedora with a feather sticking out top and a three-quarter sleeved sequined jacket that looked like something Betty White may have worn to an awards show in 1986. And somehow it worked.
And though Trumpeter Brendan Liu was charismatic in his own right, and sax player Marcus Stephens brought charm in his role on the stage, and though McCarter gave every man in his band their due at different points in the nearly two-hour set, none of them came close to matching the stage presence of the front-man. He belted out songs—sometimes in falsetto—while also strutting around the stage, shaking his behind, doing the splits, and gyrating his hips in a way that made this middle-aged woman exhausted just watching.
Indeed, the young man with the golden voice seems to have harnessed his sexuality. At one point he told the crowd about a slower jam, “Let it percolate. Some things take time. We call that foreplay.” Although, he also told a pointless story about seeing a dog at a hotel and told the crowd that he knew Mercury was retrograde (ed note: it is not.).
Con Brio blew through soulful song after soulful, funky, R&B song, some of their own and some covers, with enthusiasm and boundless energy without hardly taking a break to breathe—showing that they are an incredible band with an extraordinary lead singer. And though thier gig at The State Room did not sell out this time, it’s clear that they’ll be outgrowing the venue very, very soon—because, with Con Brio, it’s definitely better live.