Amos Lee is a chameleonic singer/songwriter, a performer who has mastered several music genres and defies classification.
Tuesday night, during a 90-minute set before a sold-out Uptown Theater, he glided seamlessly from one genre to the next: from country and folk to gospel, acoustic and electric blues and R&B. And he gave each his own distinct accents and flavorings.
One of his primary strengths as a performer is his soulful voice, which can be as sweet as it is brawny. At times it resembles other singer/songwriters of high repute. On the country shuffle “Tricksters, Hustlers and Scamps,” for example, he sounded a bit like Bob Dylan in his “John Wesley Harding” days.
Lee brought with him a stellar five-piece band that colored his songs with a wide array of instrumentation, including accordion, pedal steel, banjo, mandolin, electric and acoustic guitars and saxophone. All night they were in the pocket, no matter the style.
Lee was introduced to many of his fans when he did solo-acoustic sets opening for Norah Jones starting in 2004.
He played a couple of numbers like that Tuesday night, including “Arms of a Woman,” one of many highlights, but mostly he gave his band plenty of spotlight.
His setlist included songs from all five of his full-length recordings, including “Bottom of the Barrel,” from his debut “Amos Lee” album, released in 2005. It also featured songs from his latest recording, “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song,” including “Tricksters,” “Dresser Drawer” and “The Man Who Wants You.”
He drew the perfect audience. The crowd of more than 1,700 gave him lots of rapt attention, many ovations and plenty of laughter at his jokes. A couple of times, small clusters of folks arose from their seats and indulged in some dancing. There were some sing-alongs, too.
The setlist also featured a few covers: John Prine’s “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone,” a countrifed version of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” which segued into a bit of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” and Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You.”
They ended with a three-song encore, each cast in a different style: “Night Train,” a lambent folk song tinged with gospel; “Southern Girl, which was rearranged into a hard blues number; then “Street Corner Preacher,” a blast of electric soul. As he did all night, Lee handled each effortlessly, like a guy who feels at home no matter what he’s singing.