The Novelists, Reno’s favorite soft-rock band, commanded the Celebrity Showroom stage in The Nugget Casino Resort for nearly two hours on Saturday night, releasing its double album “Breaking The Script.”
While the evening’s focus was set squarely on its impressive original catalogue, other elements — including a Prince tribute, the premier of the band’s music video and even an onstage marriage proposal — added flavor to the performance. With delightful harmonies, hummable choruses and sitcom-esque personality, the group was wholly pleasant; unreservedly reserved.
Chief songwriters Eric Andersen (piano/lead vocals) and Joel Ackerson (guitar/lead vocals) switched off lead singing duties while drummer Justin Kruger and bassist Zack Teran backed the songs with powerfully nuanced performances and impeccable backing vocals. Highlights of the original material included “Soul Sucker” and “Blue Green.” Andersen’s voice is elastically reedy and emotive, at times feeling more like an alto sax than a voice.
The quartet’s musical competence was on full display the entire evening as each musician was careful not to overpower the songs with his chops. In fact, competence was the most consistent component of the evening. The group’s measured approach was apparent and while it could be argued that the excessive banter and backstory between each song slowed the performance, it also guaranteed that each tune was experienced as its own entity, like a sip of water between each bite.
The show reached its pinnacle at the halfway point with a cover of Prince’s, you guessed it, “Purple Rain.” Some missed chord changes kept the song from taking off at first but it was rescued by Teran’s bass solo. Far and away the most stirring moment of the night, Teran, with a little help from his pedal board, wrangled notes from his bass and forced them to scream. The crowd was moved to a frenzy (even in their seats) and the air became electric.
From there, the night settled back into its adult-contemporary groove and was peppered with covers such as Toto’s “Africa” and Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.”
Last year, the Novelists raised more than $28,000 to produce a music video and launch a PR campaign. On Saturday, the band debuted the video for the song “Morris & Estelle,” which Ackerson wrote 12 years ago. The video, directed by Nicholas Lam, followed the lives of a couple from their youth to their golden years. The cinematography and acting were both solid and the musicians brought the people involved in the making of the video to the stage for a bow. It was then that the actor who played Morris thanked the band before dropping to one knee and asking the actress who played Estelle to marry him. The crowd erupted in applause. It was a fitting way to wrap up a set that was chock-full of love songs.
The Novelists and its devout group of fans illustrated on Saturday evening that its principal strength is in adroit execution and with this show as a jumping off point, its PR campaign is sure to build on the careful groundwork that it has laid. The pop-sensible songwriting and familiar musicality will be instrumental in adding to the fan base that has been built locally.