“Her Music is My High!” Joan Osborne LIVE! at SOPAC

Spotlight Central
Spotlight Central
Published in
6 min readMar 11, 2024

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By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

The crowd inside South Orange, NJ’s SOPAC auditorium cheers this Friday, March 1, 2024 evening as singer/songwriter Joan Osborne takes the stage. Osborne, a seven-time Grammy Award nominee known for her work in the areas of pop, soul, R&B, blues, and country music, attended open-mic nights in NYC before ultimately being launched into the spotlight with “One of Us,” the breakout single from her 1995 album, Relish.

Osborne’s considerable vocal talents have made her a sought-after performer in the United States and around the world. She not only sang with Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers in the acclaimed 2002 film, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but she’s also shared the stage with such varied performers as Stevie Wonder, Melissa Etheridge, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Luciano Pavarotti, and Bob Dylan. Osborne is currently on tour in support of her latest recording, Nobody Owns You.

Strapping on a guitar, Osborne opens tonight’s show with a backbeat rocker from Nobody Owns You, “I Should Have Danced More.”

Accompanied by Jack Petruzzelli on guitar and Will Bryant on keyboards, Osborne croons in her smoldering voice, “I should’ve danced more/What on earth is this body for?/I should’ve danced more/Given myself to this beat I adore.”

The crowd avidly applauds, and Osborne and her musicians follow up with a powerful cover version of Bob Dylan’s 1965 classic, “Highway 61 Revisited,” where her bluesy voice conjures up mental images of a diverse selection of individuals whose lives intersect “on Highway 61.”

Following enthusiastic hoots and hollers, Osborne replies, “Hello, South Orange Performing Arts Center! It’s exciting to be playing an actual live concert!” Moving on to her interpretation of Muddy Waters’ bluesy “I Want to Be Loved,” Osborne plays a snare drum with a single hand as she soulfully sings, “The touch of your hand drives me insane/Baby, I want to be loved.”

Osborne announces, “We’re happy to be back out on tour! Live music has an important job to do right now. It allows us a sense of joy of being alive.” Grabbing her guitar, she performs “Whole Wide World,” a laid-back R&B tune where she sings, “We could see the whole wide world from here/Lookin’ past the sorrow and the tears/Let me take you to that better place/Let me put that smile back on your face.”

Toes tap and heads bob on “Trouble and Strife” as Osborne vocalizes her fast moving story song and Bryant solos up and down his keyboard with power and speed.

Acknowledging that she wrote “Nobody Owns You” — the title track from her new album — for her teenage daughter, Osborne warns, “Nobody owns you/Not the one who pays/Or the mother who has given you/Her yesterdays,” on this meter-shifting folk-rocker.

Osborne plays tambourine on another selection from Nobody Owns You, the bluesy rocker, “Woman’s Work,” where she cries, “Well, a man may work from sun to sun/But a woman’s work is never done.” The crowd chuckles when Osborne jokes, “I don’t like to be controversial but the research backs me up on that one!”

Osborne explains that her next song has “been out of the rotation for 15 years” but is now a part of her show again because an online “fan begged for it during the pandemic.” Resurrecting a cut from Relish, vocal harmonies echo Osborne’s call on an updated arrangement of “Pensacola.” Shaking her tambourine on the rhythmic interpretation, Osborne’s performance unfolds like a spiritual with a call-and-response vocal that generates enthusiastic hoots and hollers from the audience.

Petrozzelli’s fast acoustic guitar strumming provides a strong intro to her dynamic 6/8 rocker, “St. Teresa,” where Osborne cries, “Way down in the hollow/Leavin’ so soon/Oh, St. Teresa/Higher than the moon,” as heads nod along to her husky and expressive performance.

Audience members applaud the moment they recognize the intro to her 1995 radio hit, “One of Us.”

While Osborn sings, “What if God was one of us?/Just a slob like one of us/Just a stranger on the bus/Tryin’ to make his way home?” angelic back-up vocals by Petruzzelli and Bryant add to the arrangement’s heavenly sound.

Concertgoers cheer, and Osborne thanks the audience for coming out to support SOPAC, a theater she affectionately describes as “the little venue that could.” She follows up with her interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Accompanying herself on tambourine as she sings, Osborne provides an authoritative interpretation of this classic number with her soulful and funky arrangement.

The crowd stands and cheers, and Osborne and Co. take a bow before returning to perform an encore from Nobody Owns You entitled “Lifeline.” On this folk ballad with a message, Osborne delicately sings, “You can throw someone a lifeline/Shine a single shaft of sun/You can live an entire lifetime/Never know the good you’ve done.”

Music lovers avidly applaud, and Osborne explains, “I understand it’s a rare privilege to do music. We give 110% every time we perform. We appreciate you and hope we’ll continue to see you in the future.”

On her final encore, the driving rocker, “Take It Any Way I Can Get It,” Osborne croons, “I’ll take it any way that I can get it/And I’ll get it any way that I can,” as she briskly strums her acoustic guitar while Petruzzelli’s electric guitar twangs.

The audience stands and cheers and Osborne and her colleagues take individual and group bows before Osborne waves goodnight while throwing a kiss to the happy crowd.

As concertgoers make their way out of the SOPAC auditorium, several comment on tonight’s performance. Remarks Joey from South Orange, “This was my first time seeing Joan Osborne and I really enjoyed her show, especially the Bob Dylan material — I loved it!” Karen from Mahwah concurs, declaring, “Joan Osborne was great! I love her personality; she was so soulful and down-to-earth,” prior to noting, “She’s humble and very cool, and her musicians were great, too.”

Susan from Brick contends, “Joan Osborn is one of those performers I can see over and over again because she makes every concert fresh. I love her ability to draw us into her world; her performances are simply captivating.” Chris from Maplewood agrees, acknowledging, “I’ve been a fan of Joan’s since the early 1990s and she was just incredible tonight! I loved every second of her show — it was just beautiful — and, as usual, she overdelivered.”

Lastly, Jim from Short Hills exclaims, “Joan was fantastic tonight! I’ve seen her more than a dozen times and I find her music to be quite spiritual. There’s a ripple effect to every song she performs — you just don’t hear it, you feel it; you’re in it and it makes you feel beautiful,” prior to concluding, “As long as Joan keeps rockin’, I’ll keep coming to see her. Her music is my high!”

To learn more about Joan Osborne, please go to joanosborne.com. For information on great upcoming performances at SOPAC — including Oleta Adams on April 5, Rufus Wainwright on April 6, Richie Furay on May 4, and Paula Cole on June 1 — please click on sopacnow.org.

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Spotlight Central
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