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Elliott Yamin shows that he still has soul

[Since resident “American Idol” expert Rodney Ho is on vacation, I covered Elliott Yamin’s performance at Smith’s Olde Bar on Sunday night. As a 14-year Richmonder, I’ve followed Elliott’s career since his first hometown visit on “Idol” and still try to keep up with him.]

A poor quality phone photo of Elliott at Smith's Olde Bar on Sunday

A poor quality phone photo of Elliott at Smith's Olde Bar on Sunday

Most “American Idol” fans will agree that season five mined the strongest lineup of talent to come from the  show.

Yeah, everyone has their favorites, but it’s hard to argue with a year that produced a rough-n-tumble rock star (Chris Daughtry), a beauty queen balladeer (Katharine McPhee), a country darling (Kellie Pickler) and idiosyncratic winner, Taylor Hicks.

But for many, the heart of that season was Elliott Yamin, the mighty-voiced soul man who zoomed from karaoke singer in Richmond, Va., to scrappy underdog on the show.

A third-place finish gave Yamin enough leverage to produce a debut album that spawned a No. 3 album and a platinum single in “Wait for You.”

Since that 2007 album, Yamin has worked hard on the road – especially in Japan, where his popularity keeps growing – recorded a second album (“Fight for Love”) which demonstrated his polished maturity but fizzled sales-wise and participated in fun stuff this such as this.

At his well-attended Smith’s show Sunday, the singer took the opportunity to perform several new songs from his upcoming third studio album (not including holiday releases), “Gather ‘Round,” which was released earlier this year in Japan and should be unveiled in the U.S. sometime between November and early 2012.

Backed by a stellar three-piece band, Yamin plowed through the funky swing of “Self Control” and vocally danced around the wah-wah guitar driving “Living on Borrowed Time.”

He’s always had a knack for making new songs sound old, injecting them with a vintage soulfulness from his organic growls and rich voice. Whether he was bringing fans back to the beginning with the glossy soul of “One Word” and the gutsy ballad “Train Wreck” or rifling through new material, his authenticity could never be questioned.

Yamin’s hometown crowd – well, adopted hometown, since he was born in California – will be pleased to know that two new songs focus specifically on Virginia and Richmond.

Yamin told the crowd that when he was on “Idol,” he knew that Richmonders were supporting him but had no idea to what degree thanks to the infamous “Idol” bubble. He said he wrote the song “Virginia,” a gospel-flecked ballad, “so people know how close I keep it to my heart.”

He also pays tribute to the old days with “Downtown,” an R&B head-nodder about The Boulevard, a main street in Richmond where Yamin lived for awhile and noted, accurately, that despite the lack of a TV in his apartment, he could always look out the window for plenty of entertainment.

There is an aura of affability about Yamin, and his love of performing and singing is always palpable in his live performances. Maybe by the time this third album arrives, the greater public will remember why they fell in love with him.

5 comments Add your comment


September 26th, 2011
6:58 pm

Elliott Yamin remains a talented, soulful & beautiful performer. He has grown so much in his comfort level as a performer since his initial foray into he singing business on American Idol. I’m hoping his latest release will launch him onto everyone’s musical radar. He is as nice a human being as he is a great singer. I read a tweet today that said he was like the male Adele, and I think that was a fair assessment. Luckily I get to fly into Vegas to see him perform in a few days & I am so excited at the prospect because it’s been awhile since I’ve seen Elliott perform live.


September 26th, 2011
7:18 pm

Sounds like a great performance, Elliott is a good guy.


September 26th, 2011
8:50 pm

A friend and I came from Augusta to attend the show in Atlanta last night. It was our first time seeing Elliott perform live, and we thoroughly enjoyed the concert. His vocals are so strong, and I can rarely say that a singer sounds just as good live as he or she does on a recording, and I can definitely say that about him. He is truly talented, and I hope that he finally gets the recognition that he deserves in the USA.


September 27th, 2011
7:08 am

Thanks for the review, Melissa.


September 27th, 2011
12:47 pm

I enjoyed his show so much. I don’t need a reminder of why I fell in love with his voice. I have never forgotten the first time I heard him sing. Thank you AI for giving him a way to show the world his talent. I will be a fan for life. @Elliott I am the (That’s what’s up) girl from your ATL show. Thanks for coming to Atlanta can’t wait for you to come back. The show was truly Amazing!