September 29, 2022

Experiencing Vulfpeck’s Cory Wong at Newport Music Hall

Cory Wong, guitarist for Vulfpeck, came to Columbus at Newport Music Hall on Jan. 26, 2022.

His opening act was Sierra Hull, a bluegrass singer-songwriter. Her technical ability on the mandolin and her voice were incredibly strong. I was surprised to see someone I really enjoy as the opener. 

She began solo and then throughout her set, she introduced members of the “Wongnotes,” which is the horns and rhythm section that accompany Cory Wong. 

She played a relatively short opening set, and by the time she was finished, most of the band had arrived. 

The rest of the band came out to the “Halo” theme, which foreshadowed that the rest of the show would also be filled with quirky references. 

The first set was definitely stronger than the second, featuring many of Cory’s most popular songs. During the course of the second song, there were more theatrics on stage, including two colossal tubemen came out of large boxes on stage. 

After a few tunes, Cory introduced Antwaun Stanley, a vocalist for both Vulfpeck and Cory. Like everyone else on stage, Antwaun only added to the immense technical ability. There was not an ounce of sloppiness in anyone’s performance.

Then the second set began, and the band walked out to the “Law and Order” intro. 

Around the second or third song in the set, Cory had a musical moment that has stuck with me for a couple weeks now. He took a solo in “Starfire” that was just minor seconds (a very crunchy set of notes together) for a minute straight. In my mind, this musical concept should sound terrible and should never work, but the confidence behind his playing made it sound so convincing. 

As the show came to a close, Cory asked the audience for a few songs to play for the encore. In the mass of chaos from the crowd screaming their song suggestions, one man stood wiser than the rest and raised his hand. I asked, “Tell us a joke,” and he responded, “You’re kinda putting me on the spot here,” and didn’t even tell a joke! Truly the most disappointing part of the show, although I do get to say that I talked to Cory Wong.

His last two songs were his new, more relaxed track “Meditation,” which differs from his usual high-energy work, and Vulfpeck’s “Dean Town.” Both of these tunes, along with a Stevie Wonder tribute was a mind-bending musical experience.

Cory Wong performing “Meditation” Jan. 26 at Newport Music Hall. Photo by Satch Garlock.

These musicians are what I aspire to be in energy, technical skill and their solo ideas. Their recorded music sounds somehow worse than the real deal, which is rarely the case with modern performing artists.

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