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ZZ Ward begins Coachella week on a high at The Independent

ZZ-WardPhotos by Tom Dellinger // Written by Mark E. Ortega //

ZZ Ward with Grizfolk, The O’My’s //
The Independent — San Francisco
Sunday April 6th, 2014 //

Sunday night, in front of a sold-out crowd at The Independent, emerging R&B artist ZZ Ward proved that the old adage “pressure busts pipes” doesn’t always ring true. Ward brought her “A” game as she showcased her pipes both vocally and while breaking things down on the harmonica as she is winding down her tour before heading to Coachella this weekend.

Through the first few songs of her set, it was a bit murky as to where the show was headed. The Los Angeles-based Oregon transplant played a version of her hit “Til The Casket Drops” that was a tad understated, perhaps saving her voice for more difficult vocal endeavors later on in the evening.

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Right from jump, Ward brought an infectious energy, both in the course of her set and in her between song banter. Early in the set, Ward asked if SF was ready to party. “I know it’s Sunday, but I don’t give a fuck,” said Ward to the laughter and applause of the crowd.

By the time Ward kicked into “365 Days”, one of her other gems, she had things in full swing. She went from one side of the stage to the other, posing and serenading each section for moments at a time.

Midway through, Ward played a bluesy sounding cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” before breaking hearts with her ballad “Last Love Song” (of which a music video shot in SF would be coming out soon according to Ward). That song didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the upbeat set, but lyrically it might be her best work and she brought back the energy right away.

Before “Cryin’ Wolf”, Ward asked the crowd about a time in their life where they met someone under tipsy circumstances, to which few in the crowd volunteered the information.

“You were completely sober and it was magical and I’m happy for you,” said Ward, which got the crowd laughing again.

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Ward’s touring guitarist Erick Walls was absolutely incredible, as he wailed on the guitar all night. His contributions helped bring a more bluesy sound than what is heard on Ward’s studio work. In fact, many of Ward’s songs Sunday night sounded better live than on her studio album, a mark of a great live musician. That she’s been able to adapt her sound to the stage with ease speaks well to her future success.

Ward closed her 16-song set by coming out and performing “Blue Eyes Blind”, which had the crowd jumping up and down and waving their hands back and forth. Ward did a great job of building things up to a crescendo over the final 20 minutes, leaving fans wanting more.

Though it is still early, it is going to be hard to top her performance, which is the best I’ve seen so far in 2014. Anyone who has seen her on tour and is attending Coachella will have her marked down as must-see, and for good reason.

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