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Ryan Shaw earns Deer Valley crowd's respect, adoration

RYAN SHAW AND SIMONE, Deer Valley Ampihtheater, Aug. 2

Deer Valley's summer concert series played host to rising R&B artists Ryan Shaw and Simone on Sunday night.

The cool mountain air and grassy amphitheater may have been the appeal for attendance rather than the talent, with turnout sparce.

Ryan Shaw, who has played with such acts as Van Halen, Joss Stone and John Mayer opened the show with his band coming on stage, one-by-one and playing a pleasing intro to the main man, Shaw.

Shaw's first album attempt, "This is Ryan Shaw," contains a mixture of classic soul songs and original works penned by Shaw himself.

The mellow rhythm of the opening number was joined by Shaw's powerful vocals in a beautiful, moving rendition of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross." Shaw's voice is powerful and moves vibrantly along — unaffected by his band's accompaniment.

The upbeat and fun original piece, "Nobody," really won the audience over for Shaw. Although there was quite a bit of unfamiliarity with his music, he performed his way into the crowd's liking.

Romantic and seamless, Shaw's rendition of the 1965 Ashford and Simpson song "I Am Your Man" was balanced with the gentility of his band's back-up vocals. "I Am Your Man" got Shaw a Grammy nod in 2008 — with his excellent performance of the number, it showcased exactly why.

Shaw announced he is releasing his second album in late August or early September and played a couple of songs off the upcoming EP.

Reminiscent of old-fashioned R&B, Shaw's lyrics, "Even the birds are going to stop and stare," take the listener back to a time when Motown produced groups like the Four Tops and clothed bands in matching tuxedoes.

Correlating with the success of those historical groups, Shaw's stage presence would increase greatly if his band were more a part of the action and maybe even revisting coordinated, ruffled tux shirts would do the trick.

"Inbetween" a track from the unreleased EP narrates a time in Shaw's life where he was caught in the balance with a girlfriend.

The song is heavy-hitter, one that was waiting to explode all evening and finally brought Shaw's vocal caliber to attention.

Crediting the late Michael Jackson as a major influence in his life, Shaw really took the show to another level with his cover of Jackson's "Man in the Mirror."

Keeping with the energy from "Man in the Mirror," Shaw did a cover of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart."

Even aside from the well-known covers, Shaw started out his 90-minute set as an unknown artist, but earned the respect and adoration of the Park City crowd.

Simone, daughter of singer and songwriter, Nina Simone, and Broadway verteran with lead roles in "Aida" and "Rent," is trying her hand at a solo career.

The artist said she has been up against some tough criticism for her confidence in pursuing a solo career.

But Simone is using her theatrical background to her advantage.

Her stage presence is electric because she is so comfortable on stage and exudes her thrill for performing.

Simone shimmied and shook her way across the stage during her act opener, "Black Is the Colour (of My True Love's Hair)."

Simone's lively cover of her mother's tune "(You'll) Go to Hell" showed off her smooth, soulful potential.

Simone's debut album, "Simone on Simone" contains covers of her mother's music, which, after her mother passed away in 1999, Simone gained 50 of the original arrangements including, "Feeling Good," "Pay 'Em No Mind," and "Keeper of the Flame."

The only original song on the album, "Child in Me," is an emotion-driven song, bluntly portraying the troubled relationship Simone had with her mother.

"Now I am following in her footsteps, I'm understanding her even more," Simone said.

It was impressive to witness how well the artist was able to transition between genres so uninhibitedly.

Simone closed her set with "Work Song," which had Simone stomping around the stage, adding her own rhythm to the song.

The low turnout was truly a shame, for the talent at Deer Valley was truly a wonderful night of music under the stars, as the theme of the concert series mentions.

e-mail: jnicholls@desnews.com