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Shawn James at the Cresent Ballroom

The Crescent ballroom is one of the most elegant venues in phoenix with a capacity of 500.00 I was actually pretty nervous going into this show since I’m a huge Shawn James fan. I entered the venue and noticed Shawn was just walking towards the back of the club with his pug in hand. I headed towards the back to see if I could get some shots of him with his touring mate. I walked up to Shawn, not nervous at all, and asked if I could get some shots. He agreed without hesitation. I watched Shawn James walk around the club talking with his fans, sharing hugs and jokes and laughing it up. To see an artist interact with his fans like this adds another level of respect. The opening act was Gravedancer from Arkansas and I was highly impressed with his beautifully soulful, but dark tone. It was just him and his guitar until Gravedancer called out Shawn James to do a couple of songs together. The chemistry these two had was powerful being that they were in Shawn James and the Shapeshifters together. They were laughing and flipping each other off, having the best of times. Then eventually the violinist Sage Cornelius made his way out to do a couple of songs with Gravedancer. Gravedancer stopped for a minute to point out a good friend of his in the crowd and how they served in Afghanistan together. This was truly a touching moment while multiple people thanked them for their service. All the jokes and laughs during Gravedancer made this moment extra special. Before Shawn James hit the stage his wife walked up to me to introduce herself and said I could shoot from anywhere in the club. For any photographer we live for that with no limitations. We talked about photography, staying safe on the road, and trying to get back to normal after Covid hit. It was a little bit after 9 when Shawn James hit the stage and of course he opened with my all-time favorite song, “Burn The Witch.” This set the tone for the rest of the night. It’s one thing listening to Shawn on Spotify but hearing him live, he sets the bar even higher.

His powerfully soulful voice not only commands the crowd but it is beautifully haunting. He completely draws you in from his highs to lows and then hits those screams at just the right moment, embracing those past blues legends like Howlin' Wolf or Llightin’ Hopkins.  On this tour Shawn James brought his entire band which was such a treat. Sage came in strong with a flying V violin headbanging and singing along to every song. This guy is talented and absolutely shreds on the violin. He reminded me of Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell on the guitar but with a violin. After going through a few of his songs, Shawn James went into the acoustic part of his set and brought the mood down for a bit before he got into the heavier side of his new album. I overheard Sage saying he wanted to do “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden. I was like a little kid in a candy shop, beyond excited for this moment. This helped me through some dark times in life and being able to hear him do it live almost brought me to tears. Sage started it off and I instantly had to put down my camera to hear this. I was just completely in a trance by both Shawn and Sage. The other cover Shawn did was a song by Audioslave, “Like a Stone.” Chris Cornell would have been proud to hear Shawn do the song justice. Finally, the entire band came back on - it was time to have some fun. The drummer came out and instantly ran back to the green room to grab a bottle that they all shared on stage. That’s when they hit the ground running and tore into the rest of their set. As the night went on the set got heavier and rowdier.  I don’t recommend skipping out on this tour. Check out Shaw James and Gravedancer on tour now.

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