Park West – Chicago, IL
November 12, 2009
I will admit that I had never heard of Justin Nozuka before I went to his show at Chicago’s intimate Lincoln Park venue Park West. I love discovering new artists to add to any given playlist on my iPod. Being able to share new music with my friends brings me immense joy. Knowing that my attendance at concerts is helping to support independent artists trying to make it out there is such a gratifying feeling. Needless to say, I was very excited to check Justin out when he stopped through Chicago last week.
More photos of Justin Nozuka after the jump…
I did not know what to expect from Canada native Justin Nozuka, although he had been described to me previously as “a singer/songwriter similar to John Mayer.” Therefore, I thought, “Alright, this should be a good show.” In fact, it could not have been a more perfect concert to be present at on a Thursday night. After a long week of collegiate coursework, it was refreshing to take a seat at the Park West and be soothed by the sounds of Justin Nozuka. The atmosphere of the venue added to the overall effect of the performance as it was arranged with tables and chairs. With the entire audience seated rather closely to one another, the space was given a more intimate aura than the typical general admission concert setting.
Once Justin graced the stage and began singing, the crowd was completely transfixed and captivated into a hushed silence. Justin Nozuka created an overwhelming sense of peace and quiet. Nozuka’s pure essence put me in a hypnotic state of relaxation. Unable to control the temptation any longer, I was compelled to get a glass of wine to assist in absorbing the evening’s mood. The 21 year old Japanese-American closed his eyes during every single song. However, Toronto-raised guitarist’s inward passion for his music seeped through and made a savory impression on each fan present that night. Nozuka serenaded each audience member with every lyric sung. His voice came across raspy and a bit gruff, yet maintained a clear and soulful tone that resonated throughout the cavernous venue space.
I could not believe how Justin and his band were able to create such a tribal sound in select songs supported by a trap set, keyboard, and three guitars: electric, bass, and acoustic. I do have to point out the fact that Nozuka has an amazing band to back him up with additional instrumentation every night while on tour. The singer’s electric guitarist/keyboardist Mark Pellizzer blew me out of the water with his improvisational skills and musical talent. When playing the electric guitar, Pellizzer would break out into a solo with such ease, making it look like anyone could do what he could do…truly amazing. As it turned out, Mark Pellizzer is more comparable to John Mayer than Nozuka.
Even though the audience was seated, fans did not feel restricted by the venue’s chosen arrangement. A few die-hard fans freely stood up and jammed out to the music, moving back and forth in time with the music when appropriate. Justin was so free-spirited and really did not do much talking during his set. When Nozuka did speak, it pertained to making love and peace in this world, which only added to the tension-free ambiance that Nozuka created for himself and his fans through his music.
For such a young artist (21), the depth of Nozuka’s lyrics and his ability to turn such deep topics into catchy compositions blew me away. Justin is truly a songwriter who knows how to utilize his craft for something good, earning my respect with his writing skills. For instance, Nozuka’s song “Save Him” is about domestic abuse and a mother’s effort to save her child from the father’s rage. Most of the chosen musical pieces featured are from Justin’s debut album Holly, which is named after his mother. Specific songs that caught my undivided attention included: “After Tonight,” “I’m In Peace,” “Oh Momma,” and “If I Gave You My Life.”
For being my first experience both seeing and hearing Justin Nozuka, I was not disappointed. Instead, I was honestly inspired and soothed. You can bet I will be there the next time Nozuka is back in Chicago. And when that day comes, I will undoubtedly bring a couple of friends to share with them the talent of this up-and-coming singer/songwriter. In the meantime, I will make peace and love through listening to the songs of Justin Nozuka.
Photos of Justin Nozuka at Park West:
Written by: Kate Jacobsen and Jennifer Boyer