New York City – May 25, 2017
Written by Ryan Miller
Live Photos by Ashley Colona
Every one has said it before: “An actor wants to be a musician now? Oh, give me a break.” I have many times as well. And in most cases, I have been right. However, when I first sat down to listen to Kiefer Sutherland’s “Down A Hole” album, my ears perked up and a grin came over me. This man can sing. And, more impressively, can sing some real authentic country music the way it was intended to be. I am not talking about the watered down, pop mainstream country you hear on the radio, targeted at teenagers looking to party. Kiefer Sutherland writes and sings songs about real life experiences including pain, love, and loss. Once I heard he was playing the Bowery Ballroom, one of my favorite venues, I was intrigued to see how these songs would translate to a live performance.
A few weeks back, I had a chance to interview Kiefer. He spoke about the differences between acting and performing and how scared he was the first time he took the stage. He explained that the first few times he performed his songs live, he felt so vulnerable and had no idea if people would accept him. He also talked about he balanced life as a singer and an actor at the same time. Kiefer is currently filming season 2 of the hit ABC show, Designated Survivor, in Canada. He says he takes his tour bus on site now, instead of the normal actor trailers, so that when he is done shooting during the week, he can head right out to perform concerts on the weekend. He says the schedule has worked out well so that he can split his time equally. Kiefer also confirmed that he working on songs for a second album.
The Bowery Ballroom in New York City is a special venue. It is small and intimate with a sound system and stage setup that puts the fan in touch with a live music experience that always seems to be memorable. And on that windy Thursday night in the City, Kiefer’s fans appeared to be that of all ages. But for everyone, the question was , “do you think he will be good live?” And when Kiefer finally came on stage well past 9 pm, one thing was clear: Kiefer Sutherland can perform. He came out like a bullet out of a gun, with an old West styled hat and a rowdy band (you’ve got love anytime a band has a woman drummer as well). His first song was “Can’t Stay Away”, which included some spirited guitar playing and some yells to the crowd, which immediately showed this was not just a gimmick, Kiefer is taking this music thing seriously.
Kiefer’s first few songs were up tempo and he was energetic and charismatic through-out. But, before singing his first single off his album, “Not Enough Whiskey”, he tossed his hat aside and addressed the crowd. This is when the show really gained its intimacy, as Kiefer began to tell the crowd why he wrote each and every song and really let us into his mind. He was honest and vulnerable, and seemed to have the experience and comfort that usually takes years and years of live performances. And with the stories, the songs gained more meaning, which made me appreciate his songwriting even more.
When I had previously interviewed him, I asked him who some of his musical influences were and the answer was nothing short of diverse. He mentioned names like Tom Petty, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, The Band, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. He said Cash and Haggard wrote such linear songs and that was his initial attraction to country music. And he performed a few cover songs, in his own way, that night in NYC, including the Merle Haggard classic, “The Bottle Let Me Down”. He also closed out his set with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, but the cover that stood out to me that night was his rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown”.
All in all, Kiefer Sutherland’s live show exceeded my expectations. His genuine persona and true dedication to making music for all the right reasons really became evident hearing him talk and sing. Not to mention that he and his band could jam out as well. The musicianship itself was masterfully executed. I consider 24 to be my favorite television show of all time, and have really enjoyed Kiefer’s acting in all of his many projects. It was really enjoyable to see this actor also become a musician who I can respect now as well. I look forward to hearing more Kiefer Sutherland music and will absolutely see him live again.
- Can’t Stay Away
- I’ll Do Anything
- Truth In Your Eyes
- Not Enough Whiskey
- Going Home
- Shirley Jean
- The Bottle Let Me Down (Merle Haggard Cover)
- Calling Out Your Name
- Ways To Be Wicked
- All She Wrote
- Down In A Hole
- Rebel Wind
- Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot Cover)
- Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan Cover)