It’s not super often that you see a mix of mainstream country and masterful pop music take the stage in the very same night. Especially not in a venue as small and intimate as The Basement, a staple in Nashville’s up-and-coming 8th Avenue area. But something special happened last week when Annie Bosko and Anthony Rankin came together to play to a packed house at the beloved hole-in-the-wall. It was one of those nights that makes you step back and welcome the unexpected. With wide open arms. Wondering where the hell it’s been all this time.
I’m no stranger to the beautiful and talented Annie Bosko. Her flavorful country music is spearheaded by courage and fearlessness. A woman after my own heart, she’s a California Girl that had to be true to herself, venturing off to the south to fine tune and elevate her sound. But it’s on stage that her spark catches fire. Ever the butterfly, her initial timidity gives way to a colorful display of heart as she bellows out anthems that praise Johnny Cash (“Cash”) and denounce drunk, annoying men. She can go from zero to sixty in seconds, losing herself in the Maya Angelou inspired “Cage Bird” and then transforming into a kick ass woman who knows what she wants from a man in “Cowboy Up.”
She’s an expert at abandoning all pretense and giving in to the moment. You find that on the inspiring and uplifting ballad, “Fighter,” where her true talent of speaking truths shines through. A s a songwriter, she has just as much success writing the radio ready, upbeat anthems as she doesat finding an authentic voice to pour herself into. She puts on a show that is embedded in your memory, and if you’re anything like me, you walking away remembering the words to almost every song. Even though you just heard them for the first time.
Next up came the undeniably present Anthony Rankin. Though I’ve known Anthony for a short time, I didn’t know what I was in for when it came to his live show. His music is an energetic hit of deliciously enigmatic pop music that puts artists like Bruno Mars to shame, then makes you wonder if you’re witnessing the rise of the next Michael Jackson. Maybe you think that’s a little overkill, but it’s not. This vastly talented musician has his hands in every aspect of his music, the decision maker and the creator, something that not many pop artists can say about themselves.
But the real magic exists on the stage. Anthony and his band literal command attention without saying a damn word. The wild instrumentation and layers of harmonies fire under bombastic beats that demand not only your attention, but your movement. A catchy track like “Guyliner” (co-written by Annie Bosko) shook the casual atmosphere of the venue, making it feel like even the walls were reverberating along with the hypnotizing beats. Anthony’s voice elevates every single moment of the music, howling one moment and quietly whispering passionate pleas the next. He knows when to do what, and more importantly, understands the gravity and importance of melody. Party anthem “Phoenix to Vegas” make you want to jump on that private jet you don’t own and lose yourself in a night of debauchery you can’t afford. The earth-quaking “Liar Like Me” is a mix of pop and rock that most of today’s pop stars wouldn’t even begin to attempt. It effortlessly pulls from the careless, gleefully under-produced party tracks of the 80’s, leaving Anthony dances circles around the vapid and conventional music currently inundating the airwaves… And he does it with a guitar in his hand.
There are so many amazing songs on his Love Electrick trilogy that picking this set had to come down to some kind of science, one that he completely understood. From the hand clapping attitude on “Blacklist” to the slow grooving sensuality of “Better Than Dreaming,” he had every aspect of any elevated pop music set present in his hour long exploration of sound.
The Basement saw a night full of surprises and moments that left everyone feeling what you want to feel after a show. Inspired. Invigorated. Excited. These two artists take the music they’re passionate about and throw their whole heart and soul into it, making for some seriously transcendent live experiences.
If you do nothing in 2015, go to an Annie Bosko or Anthony Rankin show. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live in Nashville, do both in one night. You won’t be sorry.