Belmont’s 28th annual Commercial Voice Showcase packed the Massey Performing Arts Center Monday night. Four artists each took the stage and brought different styles including R&B, bluegrass, soulful pop and pop-country.
First on stage was Chandler Booth. Her R&B sound and polished vocals shone during her performance.
“I would sit in on my dad’s band which included a lot of different sounds like rock, soul and funk,” Booth said. “A lot of that is what affected my sound.”
Her first song and upcoming single called “Stupid Love” had the crowd cheering on her high vocals and vibrant stage presence. Her background vocalists wore black outfits and white denim, allowing Booth’s gold-sequined top to light up the stage.
Her second song, “Note to God,” brought the momentum down as Booth prefaced it by explaining its meaning.
“It’s a message for everyone to just give everything to God,” Booth said.
The crowd grew silent as her vocals filled the space. Her silky riffs slid underneath her belted vocals — all until a stunning key change made the crowd go wild.
Booth ended her set with a cover of Beyoncé’s “Love on Top.” The song’s complex vocal lines proved no challenge for Booth. She hit every note in every key change with ease and had the crowd up on its feet.
Up next came Ally Lubera, who completely changed the sound with her set.
“I fell in love with bluegrass music growing up. I kind of slap things together, so what you see is what you get,” Lubera said, earning a chuckle out of the crowd.
Her first song, “Ravens Cry,” was a moody, bluesy brand of bluegrass. It started slow, then passionately jumped into the first verse. Her fiddlist Bailey Warren wowed the crowd with smooth notes and powerful riffs. The country twang and strong harmonies had the crowd visibly dazzled.
Lubera gave context before her second song, “Isabel,” saying it was inspired by a Facebook post.
“I saw a post from a woman who was leaving her husband and job to live in a trailer. She didn’t want to be tied down anymore, and I thought it was inspiring,” Lubera said.
With intricate harmonies and heartfelt lyrics, Lubera poured her soul into the song while electric guitar melodies provided a poignant backing. The final note was met with roaring applause.
After a novel “costume change,” as Lubera jokingly called it, with her guitarist John Gray Zahuranick, which consisted of him holding her hat while she switched to an acoustic guitar, she gave a blazing last performance of her song “If You’re Asking Me.”
Lubera strummed her guitar throughout the track, smiling and singing about the nature of being in your 20s. The playful melody and banjo solo had the audience hooked, giving a standing ovation once the performance was over.
Next on stage was Leah Colon, who also performed in the Urban Showcase in October. She explained how finding sound for an artist can be difficult — but doable.
“I really emulated the singers I looked up to and thought if I could sing like them, I would find my sound,” Colon said.
Colon began her set with a playful ballad called “Playground.” Snapping and swaying, she delivered raspy high notes and smooth low notes. Moving around the stage in a silver-sequined dress and heels, she captivated the crowd with her vocals and sassy attitude. Her background vocalists matched her spunk, wearing multi-colored blazers over white outfits.
Her next song and upcoming single called “Simple Love” started with Colon sitting on a stool, seemingly preparing for a ballad. But once the chorus rolled around, she kicked her feet up and waltzed around the stage. She belted lyrics about the desire for an easygoing romance.
Her final song was a cover of “Sunny Days” by Allen Stone. Her playful attitude came back as she bounced around the stage and gave elaborate facial expressions. The audience was having fun with her, cheering her name and melting over her high notes. Near the end of the song, her backup singers formed around her, dancing along with her. The crowd erupted in cheers as Colon hit her final note, throwing up a peace sign while the crowd stood and applauded.
The show rounded out with Joseph Wandass IV. Wandass described his music style as a pop singer who loved country.
“I love the storytelling aspect of country music,” Wandass said. “I used to play down at Honky Tonk Central on Broadway everyday for years before I came to Belmont.”
Wandass began with his first single called “Two Front Seats.” Taking cues from the likes of Sam Hunt and Shawn Mendes, he brought a pop-country energy to the stage with his smooth vocals. He and his backup singers were festooned with black and maroon, a subtle choice for his powerful songs.
One of the singers, Katrien Vanderbeck, is Wandass’ girlfriend. He would steal glances at her during his performance while they harmonized. It added a little chemistry to his songs and made the audience gush.
His second song, called “Thinking ‘Bout You,” was your typical love story ballad. Purple lights spilled over the stage as he delivered a breathtaking performance. Guitarist Reagan Godlewski gained the spotlight before the bridge, twanging his guitar and earning cheers. The simple lyrics and romantic energy had the crowd singing along near the end.
Wandass closed out the night with a cover of Shawn Mendes’ “Mercy.” He and his band put a heavy, cinematic spin on the song, giving more of a spotlight on the drums and Wandass’ vocals. The background vocalists surrounded Wandass at the ending as they hit a key change.
When the last note was sung, the other performers joined Wandass on stage and took a bow, inviting the audience to sing along.
The Commercial Voice Showcase demonstrated some of Belmont’s talent in a wide variety of genres and made the night unforgettable.
This article written by Laura Privott. Photos by Madison Bowen.