Photographer Patrick Ainsworth was on hand for the singer's show at The Howlin' Wolf Friday, where the show's pleasures were almost entirely musical.

pj morton photo by patrick ainsworth
PJ Morton at The Howlin' Wolf, by Patrick Ainsworth

Friday night, PJ Morton started his summer tour at The Howlin’ Wolf, and the show made clear why he works with Maroon 5 and Terence Blanchard, who was in the back of the room. His set was musically very satisfying. He’s a strong, appealing R&B singer, and his songs take interesting melodic routes that never seemed forced or arbitrary. His songs are musically sophisticated without being showily so. In 2013, Stevie Wonder sang on Morton's "Only One," and the affinity is clear.

At the same time, the pleasures Morton delivered Friday were almost entirely musical. As well-made as his music is, the thoughts expressed are commonplace. He doesn’t find new ways into love, loss, and his place in the world. Instead, he treats well-worn thoughts as if they’re found gold, and he does it well enough to make you buy in, at least for a while. Eventually though, I wanted to hear what made him special—some eccentricity or unlikely choice that only Morton would make. I didn’t hear that thing, so while I enjoyed the show, I couldn’t remember much of it once it was over.

Rapper Dee-1 is touring with Morton, and he has what Morton needs. Dee has gone all-in on positivity, and he embraces his faith to such a public degree that he joked with the crowd about remaining a virgin until marriage. Because of that, you know who he is after a half-hour opening set, but he’s never simply or stereotypically Christian Guy. 

Before “Show on the Road,” he warned the crowd that on the road he body surfs during the song, then laughed when people in the front separated. They came back together, and it helped that he motioned some friends to the front to make sure there was someone to catch his fall. It worked well-enough that he tried them a second time, that time without warning. They rose again to the challenge.

Photographer Patrick Ainsworth was at Morton’s show Friday night, and here’s his takeaway. Click on the photos for larger images.

pj morton photo by patrick ainsworth PJ Morton, by Patrick Ainsworth

pj morton photo by patrick ainsworth PJ Morton, by Patrick Ainsworth

dee-1 photo by patrick ainsworth Dee-1 at The Howlin' Wolf, by Patrick Ainsworth

dee-1 photo by patrick ainsworth Dee-1 at The Howlin' Wolf, by Patrick Ainsworth