Come one, come all, dear cowboys — all are welcome at an Oliver Tree show.
Fans ages 5 to 65 milled about The Warfield with white, pink and black light-up cowboy hats as they awaited alternative artist Oliver Tree. On tour promoting his new album Cowboy Tears, the viral sensation brought an incredibly skilled ASL interpreter, flaming backdrops and a fog machine that worked overtime.
The lights fell. A spotlight gleamed on the drummer and the guitarist until, at last, Tree took the stage. Tree’s incredible entertainment quality shined through. The floor trembled with bass, and lights burned from all around the room as Tree shouted, “It feels good to be home,” marking his return to San Francisco, the city he lived in for “multiple goddamn years of his goddamn life.”
Emotion steeped the room from the very beginning of Tree’s three-hour-long set. “Forget” was the first track of the night, and Tree’s spontaneity took the reins as he encouraged fans to light up their phones and “make this a night we’ll never forget.” Already, the moment felt like the end of a movie; the crowd was captivated.
What makes Tree an unparalleled performer is the fact that he is a jack of all trades — a package of singer-songwriter-dancer-actor-comedian-choreographer — with a penchant for drama. The set continued with three discernable phases, the first being throwback songs from his first album, Ugly is Beautiful.
Psychedelic, purple and silky red lights flashed to “Alien Boy,” carrying the crowd through jolting, gorgeous tempo changes. Tree danced, hopped and leaped across the stage, his blond locks flopping about as the crowd jumped with him. He continually joked, “One more song?” throughout the set, urging throaty cheers from the audience.
Tree’s vocals triumphantly soared through his next few tracks, displaying that he is a master at performing all genres, all emotions and pulling inspiration from all decades. The concert became a hip-hop show as Tree rapped to “All That;” the vibe of the room did a 180-degree turnaround as sharp white-and-red lights sporadically flashed, the fog machine pumped harder and Tree opened up a mosh to his song, “Fuck.”
He gave thanks to the younger members of the crowd, many of whom discovered Tree from his TikTok-viral song “Life Goes On,” before explaining the concept of TikTok to his older acolytes. The track closed out the show’s first phase, leading the audience to a continuous tsunami of arm waving and screaming to the song’s synth.
The middle portion of the show was sandwiched between banter with the only featured artist on Tree’s albums, an 8-foot-tall alien named Little Ricky. The pair swapped compliments and misunderstandings about Earth’s culture before launching into the synth-soaked song “1993.”
Once Little Ricky trotted offstage, an enormous set of guitars, bales of hay, a gigantic cow and other Western accouterments moved onstage. Tree swapped personas as if they were second skins; his cowboy character activated as he mounted the massive cow and pumped his fist to “Cowboys Don’t Cry.”
Tree’s exaggerated attempt at a slower, honest love song was a turning point in the set as his voice quavered during “Swing and a Miss.” Crisp yellow-and-blue lighting accompanied by strums of an acoustic guitar emphasized his alternative take on country music as he belted “yeah”s laced with longing.
Themes of inclusion and being one’s authentic self were reiterated in his short speeches between songs. Tree continued to mix genres, especially during “Freaks & Geeks.” The transitions in tempo complemented his vocals — country-rap rhyming transitioned to classic Tree vocals to a Green Day-type rock beat.
Tree displayed incredible stamina throughout his performance, executing never-before-seen dance moves that he choreographed “all on his own.” The night featured four costume changes and a wide variety of props, including a Western outhouse, nunchucks and a tiny bicycle.
With endearingly self-deprecating jokes, Tree inspired self-confidence and love for the entire audience. His sets have something for everyone — fart jokes for the 5-year-olds, marijuana jokes for the millennials and heartwarming commentary for everyone one of his fans.
Contact Katherine Shok at [email protected].