Dave Barnes puts on genre-bending show

Caitlin-Marie Ward

Up-and-coming singer/songwriter David Barnes played at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Sunday, March 22.

At his show, Barnes showcased his latest album, “Me and You and the World.”

Although lacking the range and powerful voice that some of the greatest artists of today have, Barnes’ talent is undeniable.

His songs are varied enough, and his beats are so intoxicating that his audience cannot help but be swept up in the music and left wanting more at the end of the concert.

Barnes grew up in rural Mississippi listening to his parent’s soul, blues and soft-rock albums. This southern influence can be heard most clearly in the gospel song, “Carry Me Through.”

But Barnes likes to keep his fans on their toes, and so this latest album is infused with songs from many genres such as the pop-rock song “Until You,” the jazzy “Someday” and even a slow, soulful ballad entitled “On a Night Like This.”

Each song is carefully crafted with catchy lyrics that fans love to sing along with. Everywhere I looked, I could see people clapping or tapping their feet to keep time with Barnes’ infectious beats.

Barnes is more than just a singer and songwriter, he is a performer. With his boyish good looks, charm and sense of humor, Barnes warms up to the audience quickly.

He interacts well with his audience by playing songs that include audience participation and even stepping back from the microphone to let the audience sing the chorus to his most popular song, “Until You.” Letting his audience sing his songs is a new experience for Barnes who never realized how popular and well-known he had become.

On his Web site Barnes says, “It’s only recently that I’ve appreciated that … not having a radio presence and being able to play places where people are singing songs loudly. It’s pretty amazing.”

Something else Barnes never realized was how admired he was by his peers in the music industry. So accustomed to looking up to legends such as Stevie Wonder and Phil Collins, Barnes was astounded to learn his fans included country music stars Vince Gill, Amy Grant and the pop/jazz artist John Mayer who comments in his blog: “Go where this guy is taking you. My man’s aim is true!”

As a songwriter, Barnes often looked within himself to find inspiration. Recently however, he has begun using his ever-growing fame and talent to do some humanitarian work.

Profoundly affected by his trip to Africa, Barnes has recently become a spokesperson for the Mocha Club, an organization that asks members to donate $7 per month, the cost of two mochas, to be directed towards construction of orphanages and providing medical care to African refugees.

The song, “10,000 Children,” off of his latest album, describes Barnes’s experiences in the refugee camp and the deep, somewhat painful emotions he felt as he looked into the eyes of the refugees who, despite lacking such basic resources as clean water, were still able to smile and celebrate the simple fact that they were alive.

Barnes has come far, even though since those days of performing in college cafeterias and crowded basements is not in the too-distant past.

Judging by the approval both his fans and peers have shown him, Barnes can certainly expect the future to have even more rewarding and amazing opportunities in store for him.