Twenty-nine-year-old South Jersey native Patrick Droney has been performing since he was a kid, winning the Robert Johnson New Generation Award for Best Young Blues Guitarist at the age of thirteen, sharing the stage with everyone from B.B. King to Elvis Costello and lending his voice for the Kygo track “Say You Will”. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter (who we will gladly upgrade to “rockstar” – but more on that later) released his debut album State of the Heart earlier this year and played his debut show at the famed Troubadour and he takes his talents next to the major cities that shaped him musically – New York and Nashville – as well as a hometown stop in Philadelphia and Chicago. He played nearly half of the album in addition to older cuts to a sold-out crowd Wednesday night.
During his set, Droney sang the praises of the wonderful LA singer Lily Kershaw for coming on as his opening act. Lily’s sweet and alluring tone was apparent throughout her set, from an ethereal version of The Mamas and The Papas’ “California Dreamin'” to her song “Always & Forever” and a particular standout “Now & Then”. The delicate ballad “One Night After Breakfast” also impressed, with Kershaw accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar. Near the end of her opening set, Kershaw and her fellow musicians shredded their set lists and she sang a cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” with the crowd joining in on the chorus.
Patrick Droney kicked things off with “The Wire”, a lively set opener with a number of stellar vocal and guitar solo moments that was just a taste of what was to come. Keyboardist Billy Justineau and guitar player Melissa Fuller harmonized beautifully and the good vibes were setting in. The inescapable ballad “Like The Water” was next, with the amazing guitar echoing the driving pace yet tender romance of the song, with the crowd singing along to the final chorus.
“I’ve been waiting for this night for a while guys”, greeted Droney. Following an applause, the tempo was back up for inspiring, harmonious “Nowhere Town”, with an emphasis on the keys and the drums rolling along like a train, a spirited organ solo and near the end the song almost entirely stopped with Droney musing “So many nights that don’t make sense make sense tonight” followed by a guitar break that could have ended the whole show.
Older song “Brooklyn” was next with the crowd singing along and cheering for it. The mid-tempo nostalgic-filled groove included yet another huge guitar solo with Droney hopping over in one of his boots from center stage to his drummer (Travis McNabb) and bassist (Christian Harger) while the crowd sang along to the heartbreaking “oohs” and “ohs”. Patrick Droney’s infectious “When The Lights Go Out” gave him just the right moment for that rockstar stance with the guitar, completely owning the stage on this set highlight.
Droney talked about putting out his record State of the Heart during such a strange time in our lives, implying the months of uncertainty and tumult, while also saying how his fans in so many ways give him purpose. He described the emotion of the moment and how meaningful this show was to him. And then Droney launched into the bluesy “Little By Little” on a different guitar, picking up into a power ballad with loads of guitar tricks and picking – Droney totally rocked out – and then landed back on earth with a powerful final chorus followed by a big applause from his fans.
He’s got a knack for the highs and lows, the tempo changes and tone variations with the rock songs and the ballads and brought it back down to one of the more delicate songs, “Glitter” – about grief. Stripped down through the first verse and chorus, the rollercoaster ballad hit a high emotional point with a memorable solo on piano and beautiful background vocals on verse two. The lyric “grief, it’s like glitter, oh what a mess it makes” resonated with Droney’s powerful vocal to go along with a heart-wrenching, rather stunning guitar solo.
The love anthem “Yours In The Morning” provided another peak of the evening, with Droney’s falsetto shining as well as harmonies with his guitarist/background vocalist Fuller. On the last chorus the thrill of the song was felt with the crowd singing along to “I’m tired of counting down streetlights til we kiss goodnight at your door anymore, it’s the only thing I dream of when I close my eyes”. This one may very well be his “Your Body Is A Wonderland” – or else it should be.
Droney shared that the record has a whopping twenty songs on it and he revealed that one of the songs was written in London while it was raining. “Where You Are” is that song, a mid-tempo reflective track with wonderful harmony once again from Fuller complementing the star. The upbeat 2018 track “Stand and Deliver” was next, filled with epic guitar solos and moments where Droney sounds like Chris Stapleton, especially on the upper register. The danceable pop-soul song has moments of gospel and Droney could be found flopping his hair to the rhythm followed by a huge roar from the audience. The energy was still high with “Good Die Young”, an anthemic pop-rock song in the vein of Droney’s hometown stars like Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi.
Patrick Droney hugged Fuller and looked around the stage and at the crowd, taking in the moment before the beautiful “On Your Way Home” with lovely harmonies. Earlier hit “Ruined” was next, a true late-night bluesy love song with amazing keys from Justineau and an ending with all instruments turned up to high gear – like an epic Joe Cocker moment.
Album title track “State of the Heart” earned rapid clapping by the crowd from the start, with Droney battling it out on guitar with Fuller for a lively moment with crashing of the drums followed by Droney grabbing the guitar close to his torso in appreciation. Optimism is for sure a theme in Droney’s music and so the delicate ballad “High Hope” was just the right tune to close out a night of talented musicianship and incredible vocals, with an extra-long instrumental.
The timelessness of Patrick Droney’s songs is apparent with genre thrown completely out the window – he’s rock & roll, blues, soul with moments of country. In the same way you can’t really pinpoint what Chris Stapleton and John Mayer are musically, Droney is versatile and multi-talented from his head voice to his falsetto to his wildly entertaining guitar skills. In true rockstar fashion, a bra was thrown on the stage at one point during the set. It’s clear State of the Heart is something needed right now – a collection of songs with familiarity, hookiness and even a little nostalgia, reminding us of a simpler, easier time.