JJ Grey & Mofro, The Commonheart entertain Underground Sound audience at Vilar Center | VailDaily.com

JJ Grey & Mofro, The Commonheart entertain Underground Sound audience at Vilar Center

Strong performance from the opener outshines the headliner

A man sings into a microphone with a harmonica in hand

JJ Grey & Mofro offered southern rock and soul at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Watching JJ Grey & Mofro follow The Commonheart was a bit like watching season five of “American Idol.”

If you don’t remember that year, it’s when Taylor Hicks took the title right out from under Katharine McPhee — who many believed was the notably better performer.

That’s not to say that Hicks isn’t a good performer himself — JJ Grey and his band certainly know how to put on a show, too — but the bottom line is that the performers that ended up on the second tier were still class acts.

The Commonheart opened for JJ Grey & Mofro on Wednesday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center as an act in the Underground Sound concert series, the third of the season.

Both groups presented southern rock music, a blend between soft rock, soul and gospel music, often about heartbreak and the everyman experience.

As stated above, Grey and his crew put on a fun (albeit long) performance that truly picked up in the second half, once Grey got behind his instruments — piano, guitar and harmonica — and a few members of The Commonheart joined him on stage. He’s a good ol’ southern boy with rich stories from his childhood and a pension for songwriting that can sway to the emotional side, or stick to showy rock.

His stage presence was unique for his genre, offering a Sinatra-style swagger with a bolo tie twist, and a confidence and charm that furthered his likeness to Hicks even more.

The true star of the show, however, was The Commonheart. With several standing ovations throughout their performance, it was difficult not to beam from ear to ear throughout the entire set.

9 band members stand on a stage playing music

The Commonheart served as the opener for JJ Grey & Mofro.

With a soulful rocker as the lead, the band provided high-energy jams that had everyone tapping their feet, clapping their hands and calling “give love!” in a call-and-response.

To top off their performance, the nine-piece group showed off the best of their skills by covering The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” that was on par if not better than both the original and Joe Cocker’s version.

A fun addition to Underground Sound, JJ Grey & Mofro and The Commonheart brought a much-needed, new musical style to Beaver Creek, and we should all look forward to their return.

Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at nday@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2932.