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Plymouth rocks for Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards returned to the stage at the Flying Monkey Performance Center in Plymouth this past Friday evening, proving once again that he just keeps getting better and better with the passage of time. Edwards pleased the crowds with some of the “traditional” favorites like “Sunshine,” “Blue” and “Sometimes in the Morning,” but satisfied the true believers with some of the newest tunes on his newly released CD, “My Love Will Keep.” (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
October 12, 2011
PLYMOUTH — Boy, that guy can still rock!

"O.K., maybe I would prefer it if they wouldn't use the word still," said the amiable and glib Folk Rock icon Jonathan Edwards, from the stage at the Flying Monkey this past Friday evening.

On the other hand, how many veteran performers can bring so many of us all back, gladly, to the wildest days of our spent youth, and simultaneously make us deeply appreciative that we have traveled so far and wide along our long life's journey?

If anybody can do it, it is Edwards, who has himself lived fully and played long, in so many diverse places, from his birthplace in Virginia to youth in the Midwest, a long formative stint on the exotic tropical Caribbean Island of St. Croix — where he picked up his trademark barefoot performance style — to the rocky shoals of Nova Scotia, to a brief but not unprofitable year living in the middle of Texas.

Maybe that is what accounts for the maturity, sophistication and diversity of his music, which ranges broadly, yet somehow coherently, in style from the hyper energized to the mellow, from the brash and optimistically defiant "Sunshine" to the serenely spirit filled recent track "Sailors Song."

"It has taken me 40 years to become this uncharacterizable in style," joked Edwards in an interview before the show.

But his formula for success with audiences has never really changed much over the years. It comes from his engaging, friendly enjoyment of his fans. As the show goes o,n he says he becomes more and more involved with the audience, and he draws energy from them.

"The last time I was at the Flying Monkey, I had so much fun," said Edwards. "The people went nuts. They were very respectful and appreciative, but also wildly enthusiastic."

This time was no different.

These days, Edwards calls nearby Portland, Maine home — a city he says has a vibrant and exciting music scene, great restaurants, and just about as much natural beauty as a place like Plymouth. And the confessed "country boy" promises to come visit all his many fans here in neighboring New Hampshire as often as he can.

He has most recently returned from a tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, where he played in 18 different venues, including university campuses, street fairs, and even a refugee camp, bridging the political and cultural distances with the deep harmonies of his music.

Here at home, he continues to rack up more and more appreciative audiences as he travels about the country playing the old favorite hits that made him famous "back in the day," and introducing some really sweet new tunes from his newly released CD, entitled "My Love Will Keep" — his first in 14 years.

It was one of his youngest, newest, and most enthusiastic fans, sitting in the middle of the third row and squealing with delight during the high points of performance, who summed up the attraction.

"The thing is that you really have got to see him in live performance before you can really appreciate him," said University of New Hampshire student Emma Kuras. "He is such an amazing guy. His songs are incredibly powerful, but the real magic is that he connects with every single person in the audience when he performs. You swear he is singing for you all night long."

Kuras and her friend, Jessica Daigle, said they had given up a Friday party night on campus to travel to Plymouth for the concert.

"This is Jessica's first show," explained Emma. "I brought her with me as a birthday present tonight. It is my fourth time seeing Jonathan Edwards in person. My first time was six years ago. My parents made me go with them. Really, they had to force me to go… I didn't want to. But by the time I left there, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much, and now, I'm in love with the guy. He is awesome. Oh man, I would travel anywhere to see him."

She is apparently not alone. The concert drew Jonathan Edwards fans from all over the state, but many of the familiar locals where there, as well. (You know who you are!).

Tim Shuffleton was one of these locals, who made his onstage harmonica debut, coming as an almost complete surprise to Edwards and his band members towards the end of the evening. A gracious, good natured and somewhat amused Edwards let the talented local guy unexpectedly soak up a little spotlight during one of his most popular and well known 'oldie' numbers.

The Plymouth State University alum and Center Harbor resident, Shuffleton, said he was practicing in the bathroom before the show, when the Flying Monkey's Manager heard him and briefly mistook his playing for that of the famous musician himself. Grabbing destiny by the horns, Shuffleton asked if he could be allowed to go onstage with the band and perform with them for a few minutes… and the next thing you know, he was briefly letting loose onstage in front of a large crowd that included at least 20 of his personal friends and neighbors.

Only at a Jonathan Edwards concert.

Because the guy really does rock… now more than ever.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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