by Josh Gross
Local singer-songwriter-engineer James Orr released his second album on Saturday, Feb. 11. And for an artist who keeps pushing at his own edges, he really outdid himself in both ambition and execution.
Like most of Orr's headlining shows, it was billed as a black and white semi-formal affair, meaning the audience was dressed to the nines in ties, cocktail dresses and polished shoes. Somehow, Orr, clad in a blazer and beanie without any shoes, fit in effortlessly.
Even the venue was top-notch: The Stueckle Sky Center, a schmancy high-rise Boise State event space with giant picture windows overlooking the city.
Orr began the show with little fanfare, not even announcing his name, just launching into "Pride and Prejudice," the first track on his new album. He used a variety of instruments and a looping pedal to fill out the sound of his acoustic guitar into a full band.
But things really picked up when he got to the title track on his new album, "Tiny Love." The three video screens hanging behind him on the stage sprung to life with four video projections of Orr, clapping and singing the different parts in the song.
For the finale, Orr and his Orr-vatars were joined by a trio of cellists: an Orr-chestra.
He ended the show standing atop his keyboard bench, singing folk in a rock god stance, with cellos wailing a thick, luscious ballad as the delays from his guitar bounced around the room. It was as much a multimedia art presentation as it was a rock concert.
The show's only real flaw was that, as it was technically "a campus event," there wasn't any booze. Something that attending Boise City Council member Ben Quintana grunted he ought to pass a law to change.
It's easy for cynics to pick on Orr. His songs are sugary sweet. His concerts are often sponsored by tire giant Les Schwab. And the two attending members of the Boise City Council at his CD release show hardly qualify as cutting-edge members of the Bohemian underground. But there isn't anyone else in the city attempting anything remotely as ambitious, in a production sense. But maybe next time, he can make sure there's booze.