Sheldon Jevon Whiteside approached the concert for the release of his debut EP All for You like an old-school soul revue. Rather than dominating the spotlight, the singer shared the Brothers Drake Meadery stage with a smattering of friends and collaborators, who helped warm the near-capacity crowd before the singer made his appearance shortly before midnight on a recent Thursday.
Whiteside, who donned a vest, a red tie, and black and white shoes polished to a mirror shine, dressed as though he were gearing up for a romantic night on the town — a vibe that carried over into his lovelorn, soul-and-R&B-stoked set. “One look in your eyes and I’m hypnotized,” he crooned on the doe-eyed opening number.
Supported by a five-piece band and a handful of backup singers, Whiteside moved through songs that traced a wide arc, advancing from the first blush of a developing crush to tortured numbers haunted by the ghosts of a relationship long-ago crumbled to ash. On “Radio Stop It,” the airwaves served as a reminder of those better days gone by. “I turn it on/ I hear our song,” Whiteside crooned, his battered tone hinting at the painful memories brought to life by the dial.
Though young, there’s a startling maturity to Whiteside’s songwriting, and he brought a nuanced perspective to even the most standard romantic fair. On “All for You,” he made grandiose promises to a lover, pledging trips to far-off locales like France and Tokyo, even as the song remained grounded in reality. “I know you love me for me,” he sang. More impressively, he allowed Roxie the Soul Butterfly to adopt the dominant position on a romantic duet that refused to play to conventional gender roles. “Don’t act so big and bad/ I know you need me,” she sang in a deceptively sweet tone that belied the strength in her words.
As the too-short 25-minute set drew to a close, the singer’s gaze shifted outward. “All For You,” which started as a personal conversation between lovers, gradually adopted a broader, more universal tone, with Whiteside pledging to those friends and family in attendance not to fall short of their expectations for him. “Every song I sing, even when I’m not in Columbus,” crooned the musician, who’s in the midst of relocating to Chicago (the show doubled as a going away party). “It’s all for you.”