The excitement grew every mile I drove closer to the end of my 50-minute commute for Sunday night’s show. I was on the way to see Vanessa Collier at The Alley in Sanford, Florida on a sunny Sunday afternoon, February 20, 2022. I arrived 15 minutes before the 6:00pm start time. The venue was filling up as I made my way inside. I found a small table, a bit larger than a foot stool across from the stage and took a seat. From my vantage point, I could see down the hall to the green room which was concealed by curtains joined at the center of the doorway opening. A chain was fixed across the doorway with a sign in the middle not legible from my distance. As I waited, I occasionally caught glimpses of the band as they lounged in the green room on couches when the wind blew the curtains apart. I assumed the back door was open and the breeze was originating from there. Christopher Johnson, one of the club owners, was moving around the venue getting the final touches in place for a great show that was about to begin. The Alley is an intimate setting with great sound and lighting. Every guest feels welcome and the shows are truly special.
Finally, at around 6:30pm, the time had come and the band made their way to the stage. Vanessa followed the crew with her alto and tenor saxes in her arms. Once on stage she welcomed the crowd with that five-million-dollar smile that I remembered so well from the last time I covered her performance in 2019, at The Tampa Bay Blues Festival. What I took away from that 2019 performance was that Vanessa Collier is very approachable and loves her fans. When she came off stage in 2019, and she went right to the press tent. A line of over 100 people anxiously awaited their turn to meet her. She spent time talking with every one of them and signing autographs on anything they presented to her. The show at the Alley was no different. At the intermission, as the band returned to the green room, Vanessa went into the crowd and positioned herself at the merch table and the long line organically formed. She greeted every fan with a warm smile as I saw her do in 2019.
Vanessa Collier attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated in 2013 with two degrees, Performance and Music Production & Engineering. Her accolades to date are back to back Blues Music Awards for “Horn Player of the Year” and a total of seven Blues Music Award Nominations (BMAs). Currently, she is nominated for (BMAs) Contemporary Blues Female Artist for the year 2022, which now makes eight.
In 2014 Vanessa released her debut album, Heart Soul & Saxophone and has released five albums to date. “The Run Around” from her first album opened the show. Her full bluesy voice took center stage, but the rich sound of her saxophone didn’t sit on the sidelines for long. The party had started at the alley and every eye in the building was on one of the nation’s best performers. The genres covered funk, rock, blues and soul. One of my favorites of the night was the soul number, “I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles. Vanessa really sang with soul in her rendition of the song. The concert also included solos by the incredible blues guitarist, Laura Chavez, and keyboard player and birthday boy, Will Gorman. Just before the intermission, Vanessa stepped off the stage with her saxophone and proceeded to meet and greet every single guest in the venue as she continually played during her travels covering every inch of the crowd before returning to the to the microphone. The joy in her performance just radiates to everyone around her. For an unforgettable performance and to experience a genuine warmth felt by the entire audience, you must see this talented performer. Vanessa Collier is an incredible musician and human being. When you meet her, she will make you feel like she has know you for years and graciously will welcome your interaction.
Vanessa Collier – Vocals/Saxophone/Guitar
Will Gorman – Keyboards
Byron Cage – Drums
Laura Chavez – Guitar
Andrew Crane – Bass
1.) The Run Around
2.) Whiskey & Woman
3.) I Can’t Stand The Rain
4.) Sweatin’ and Singing Like an Angel
5.) What Makes You Beautiful
6.) When It Didn’t Come
7.) Love Me Like a Man
8.) When Love Comes to Town
9.) Tongue Tied
12.) If Only
13.) Blender Blues
16.) Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime
17.) Bad News Bears
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Photographer and Editor/Founder of AllMusicMagazine.com. My love of live music has taken me to incredible experiences with the top bands of all time in stadium shows to the smallest venues with equally inspiring musicians. Using the medium of photography and my publication, these memories will last forever.