Music Review: Roméo Testa at DC’s 9:30 Club

Roméo Testa.
Roméo Testa. (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2014 – Roméo Testa was nervous when he started his recent set at the 9:30 Club. This wasn’t initially the case when he first stepped on the stage. But that feeling started to sink in once he got a better look at the audience. This wasn’t likely observable to the casual audience member. But Roméo Testa seemed to bristle with a certain kind of excitement as he launched further into his set.

Making assumptions about age is never a good thing to do in music. Youth is such an important aspect of mainstream pop or rock or hip-hop culture or in so many other genres. But its not always about a performer’s physical age. It has much more to do with how artists present themselves.

Someone hitting 30 – generally considered old to ancient by pop standards – can still present him or herself as youthful just by their exuberance or their sheer joy of finally getting a real break after all those fruitless years on the road.

By the same token, even artists in their early 20s can seem weathered and aged by an endless cycles of commitments, given touring, recording, and so many other things that are difficult to compensate for.

There have been so many examples of teen pop stars grown old beyond their years−before they’re able to rent a car on their own or even legally allowed to drink−that it’s hard to count them all. Music has different effects on everyone and makes it difficult to gauge the artist’s true age, maturity level. So “age” eventually has more to do with how an audience really views each band or performer.

This is where Roméo Testa straddles both age demographics. He is young—not teen pop star young but still quite young to be going out on tour like this even if he is only the opening act. But merely catching an image of him singing on stage or in various promo materials, one finds his youthfulness is somewhat ambiguous since he cuts an imposing figure.

This feeling is heightened by his singing, which is mature and confident in its soulful stylings. He comes across as modern. But it’s hard to pin down his exact influences because his ever so slight Hispanic accent obscures the true nature of his leanings towards various pop singer/songwriters.

Likewise, it’s hard to pin down his precise age. His musical presence doesn’t betray as to how long he’s actually been doing this as measured by calendar years.

That is, until he first talks to the audience and his voice starts quiver just a bit. The way he comes across at that moment and afterwards is when his youthfulness becomes ever more apparent.

Still, this kind of nervous energy enhances Roméo Testa’s performance. What he sings about becomes all the more believable. The strength of his voice gains authority because he’s throwing so much of himself into what he’s performing.

Currently, though, his material is somewhat run of the mill, in that it’s mostly stuff the people have heard before even if they’ve only been paying attention to pop music for just recently. This is the kind of music that hinges almost entirely on the strength of the singer’s personality by the singer.

Fortunately, Roméo Testa has the kind of personality that can raise whatever he’s singing to another level, regardless of what he’s actually singing.

But in the end, whatever you’re picking up during his set, much of it hinges on his young attitude. When he says how excited he is to be performing in front of people, the audience is simply compelled to believe him, so sincere is his delivery.

RT says and sings everything with such conviction and exuberance that it’s impossible not embrace the emotional of his songs. Hopefully, as he progresses as a singer that specific kind of youthful energy and excitement will be something he never loses.

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