Cory Wong was back in New York City on Tuesday night for a thrilling headlining show! The performance included special guests and surprise auditions throughout a two-hour performance, which ended up being way more fun than a frog in a glass of milk. Tuesday’s headlining set from the Vulfpeck guitarist was just his second time playing the competitive New York market as a solo act, making it that much more impressive that he and his equally-talented band were able to sell out Bowery Ballroom ahead of the show.
Fans should have known they were in for a special night when they were treated to a wonderful opening performance by New Zealand singer/guitarist Emily Browning, who, as she strongly declared, should not be confused for that actress by the same name. Browning already had a relatively full room by the time her 30-minute opening set reached cruising altitude, and she had no problem taking the audience for a ride through a smooth but impressively strong mix of soulful originals. She even gave fans a preview of what was to come later in the night when she was joined on stage by Wong for a song towards the end of her set.
Speaking of Wong, his marathon of a two-hour headlining set started right around 9:45–and would continue to midnight–with a triumphant arrival to the stage as they tore into a thrilling rendition of the “NFL Sports Overture” to get everyone’s adrenaline going early on. Wong’s workhorse energy remained at peak level throughout the entire performance, leaving everyone in the sold-out Manhattan venue in awe of his tireless work ethic. The four-piece band, which was joined occasionally by a three-part horn section, kept the atmosphere light and the jams flowing strong as they played through a mix of Wong’s solo instrumentals including “Frogville”, “Welcome 2 Minneapolis”, “Dial Up” and “Team Sports”. Elements of jazz, surf guitar, and funk all blended into the overall sound of his performance, which featured just as many smooth-talking monologues as it did solos.
Wong made sure to showcase that hilariously fun and laid-back stage personality of his, which was proof that musicians and their fans have way more fun at shows when they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. The musical portion of Wong’s show was often spaced out by of those ridiculous fake infomercials of his being played on the screen behind the stage.
The next surprise came when the band invited acclaimed contemporary saxophonist Dave Koz to join in on the fun for what should already be considered one of the best guest sit-ins of 2019. Wong and Koz are no strangers to one another, as the famous sax player had previously sat in with Vulfpeck during the band’s Kings Theatre run back in the fall. The celebration continued with Koz helping them perform “The Optimist” and “Friends at Sea”, marking the first live collaboration since releasing their collaboration back in November. Wong explained to the audience that he wanted to live out another dream by surprising Koz with a surprise audition to be the sax player’s new backing band right there in front of everyone with a cover of “Together Again”. The surprise cover/audition seemed to joyfully surprise Koz as much as it did everyone in the audience.
The show continued with Wong taking the crowd down the smooth jazz rabbit hole with a medley jam before continuing with some of his original material in “Clouds”, “’91 Maxima” and even throwing in a partial cover of Rage Against The Machine‘s “Killing in the Name”. Browning was also brought back out to join the band towards the end of the show to help play and sing on a lively performance of “Juke On Jelly”.
It was nearly midnight (on a Tuesday) by the time Wong and the band returned to the stage for an encore, which began with a jam alongside Dave Koz while those air-filled characters seen outside car dealerships waved around the sides of the stage. The show came to a thrilling conclusion with a performance of “Companion Pass”, and just like that, the Cory Wong experience was over. If there’s one thing the audience should take away from Tuesday’s incredible performance, it’s the opinion that Wong should easily be considered one of the top entertainers in music today.
Wong’s solo tour continues his tour on Thursday night with a show at Metro Gallery in Baltimore. Fans can head over to his website for tickets, and check out the photos below for a look inside last night’s fun.
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Setlist: Cory Wong | Bowery Ballroom | New York, NY | 1/29/2019
Set: NFL Sports Overture (cover) > Frogville 2, Pleasin, Welcome 2 Minneapolis, Dial Up, Team Sports, The Optimist*, Friends at Sea*, Together Again* (Dave Koz cover) Smooth Jazz Medley, Clouds, Sidestep, ’91 Maxima, Killing in the Name (Rage Against The Machine partial cover), Juke On Jelly**
Encore: Jam*^, Companion Pass
** w/Emily Browning