Mike Posner took a break from his walk across America on Wednesday night (May 29), visiting his home town of Detroit for what he said would be “the only actual show I’m going to do this year.”
Besides a chance to play in front of what seemed like an abundance of vociferous friends and family, the intimate and emotionally moving 85-minute solo acoustic show at the tiny City Theatre was also a fundraiser for the two young daughters of one of Posner’s childhood friends, who passed away in February. They, along with their mother, sat on a couch onstage, frequently interacting with Posner as he worked his way through 14 numbers — including four selections from this year’s A Real Good Kid.
Though his spirits were high and he cracked plenty of jokes throughout the night, it was clearly a profound night for the pop hitmaker. His hair pulled back and braided and his voice strong and assured throughout, Posner — who played both guitar and piano — dedicated “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” to the late Avicii, who’s name-checked in the song, and he introduced the unreleased “Would You Do the Same?” as the product of the time he spent with his late father before his death in January of 2017. And as he led a call-and-response with the crowd during “Be As You Are,” Posner not only changed the age reference to a correct 31 but turned the final portion into a sincere tribute to mothers.
Posner also spoke about his walk, which is taking him 2,942 miles from New Jersey to California. As to why he’s doing it, Posner noted that “the short answer is I want to, but there’s a lot of smaller reasons underneath that.” He added that after putting the endeavor off for five years, the deaths of his father, his friend, Avicii and others moved him “to remind myself that my life is now…and it is so easy to get so lost in my own head. I hope the walk can remind me and other people that this is it.”
And Posner is clearly looking for some musical impact from the trek as well; Introducing a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” he confessed to wondering “Why haven’t I written a song as good yet?,” which drove him to additional introspection. “The deeper the human you are, the deeper the music you make is,” Posner explained. “I’ve got to go learn some things so I can maybe deeper music.” But his soulful, show-stopping encore rendition of “Buried in Detroit” indicated Posner may not be too far away from that mark.
There was plenty of fun during the show, too — including spirited versions of “Please Don’t Go” and “Cooler Than Me,” an abundance of singalongs from the partisan audience and a few touchy-feely shenanigans. Early in the night Posner asked everybody to introduce themselves to two people they didn’t know, then stand and give those next to them a bit of a backrub. Posner also threw in one of his spoken word pieces, the soul-venting “Gratitude,” and finished with an upbeat “Move On.”
“I hope tonight has put a smile on your face,” Posner said before asking the crowd to “pray for my physical strength, pray for my mental well being.” His journey is far from over, of course, but Wednesday’s show provided a refreshing break before his feet hit the road again.