Sundance Head, gaining popularity after winning the 2016’s singing competition show “The Voice,” took a break from opening arena concerts for country singer Blake Shelton, and stopped off to headline his own show March 8 at Reno’s Cargo Concert Hall.
“We’re glad we can be here tonight,” he told the audience. “On tour with Blake Shelton we get a half-hour, but we’re going to play all night for you guys.”
Sundance Head (real name) fronts a trio of bluesy and modern country performers — bassist “Dropkick Dave” Walters and drummer Joe Busa — who brought a mix of covers and originals into their performance. However, the band’s strength lies in Head’s powerful vocal delivery. He displayed a control and range throughout a set that consisted of nearly equal parts blues, country, soul and even a couple ballads. It was clear that the instrumentation is merely the foundation on which Sundance Head’s vocals roared, elevating a set of a party, jukebox-esque playlist to command the room’s attention.
A large part of his appeal has been taking the unexpected songs of other artists and putting his own soulful backing into the vocals. His renditions of Alicia Keys’ “No One” and “At Last,” most notably performed by Etta James, proved testament to his ability to move an audience, with Cargo’s floor being graced by dancing as well as more than one couple in a starry-eyed embrace throughout the latter song.
Between songs, Sundance joked with the audience, mentioning he had at one time been a wedding singer, having done almost everything imaginable to further his singing career before eventually being on this stage headlining. The band also introduced for the first time live what they are planning on releasing as its first single.
Hometown openers Jake Houston and The Royal Flush seemed to have been taken from a Friday night inside a 1970s Tennessee roadhouse and deposited 40 years later in Reno. Playing a honky-tonk and original country style, these five guys sounded so authentic and proficient at their chosen style that it was hard to believe that they all appeared to be in their mid-20s rather than battle weary old vets from a deep Southern bygone era. A pedal steel guitar and the singer’s husky gravelly vocals carried the band’s songs of bourbon and hellraisin’ nights, with a couple covers from the likes of The Band and Waylon Jennings thrown in for good measure.
Related story: See who Sundance Head would like to punch in the mouth.