Zach Sobiech at Varsity Theater, 2/16/13

Categories: Last Night

Sobiech's voice has been roughened by his sickness, and though his words came out clear, they were sometimes muted. He was thin, but energetic. But where you see the true difference in him is his countenance. His eyes are dark, and wear the thoughts of a young man dealing with old man concerns -- sometimes softened, sometimes saddened. His mouth smiled, but he returned to a stoic, faraway expression more often than not, and often his head tilted away from the audience.

The playful "Star Hopping" proved to be the last song of A Firm Handshake's proper set, and it was a warm closing that was "happier and shorter" than "Fix Me Up," Sobiech said jokingly. They said a quick goodbye under the pinkish light, and then retook the stage after Martinez's performance. First, they covered the Lumineers' "Flowers in Your Hair," and Sobiech's voice took on its strongest strides of the night. And then for the final song, the viral sensation "Clouds," performers from earlier in the night joined onstage. Kevin Bowe added lead guitar, and the song stretched through several breakdowns and builds, and elicited a hearty sing-along from the Varsity crowd.
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Photos by Erik Hess

"Clouds" is a truthful testament to Sobiech's medical state. "It won't be long now," he sang ominously, but yet positively. Even without considering his illness, Sobiech's life as a normal teenager has been replaced with that of a burgeoning artist with a BMI contract, and a lot of music business people in his life. And, what has come along in his case is unmistakable poise. For most of us, the idea of being in front of people when we can't be 100 percent is unthinkable. But Sobiech, even without much of a preachy message, humbly can think of any moment onstage as time away from a hospital bed. What Zach Sobiech thankfully already has, unlike many young artists, is a greater understanding of his effect on the world around him.

Critic's Notebook

The crowd: A little like the State Fair. Some heavily made-up mothers, plenty of children, and a load of Sobiech's friends and family.

Random detail: "Call Me Maybe" playing over the PA in between acts brought out a loud response from the younger quadrants of the crowd.

By the way: This benefit came together with the help of KS95 and Rock the Cause.
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Photo by Erik Hess

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