Photo by Dan Winters

Review by Katelyn Poe


The stage bore a bouquet of balloons, and hundreds filed into Paradise Rock Club on Tuesday, wearing party hats, to celebrate the birthday of American singer-songwriter Josiah Leming, the man behind Josiah and the Bonnevilles.

Fans had to wait an hour longer than expected for this special night of Josiah and the Bonneville’s tour. Leming announced on his official Instagram story that the opener, Mon RovÎa, would not make it to the performance. But with no other official announcement, the line still wrapped down the block and around the corner for an 8 P.M. start time, and fans waited until after 9:00 P.M. for the show to start.

However, the delay did not negatively affect fans’ experiences. Lemming put on a heartfelt, authentic, emotional show that left his audience reeling. When the time finally came, he took the stage in jeans and a T-shirt. Fans welcomed him with warm excitement despite the delay. Several girls in the front row sang “Happy Birthday” to him when he announced it was his birthday. Leming listened and smiled; he was serenaded twice before the night ended.

Leming lovingly refers to his fans as “the Bonnevilles.” He grew up in Morristown, Tennessee, where he dropped out of high school at 17 to pursue music in Los Angeles. After a brief stint on American Idol, three failed record deals (commemorated with a “No More Deals” tattoo on his wrist,) and a miserable Amazon warehouse job, Leming found inspiration again doing country covers of pop songs in 2022, which successfully put him in the spotlight. Leming performed at Paradise Rock Club on Tuesday, March 26, 2024 as part of his first-ever headlining tour—and his 35th birthday. The tour is to promote his 2023 album of original songs: “Endurance.”

Josiah and the Bonnevilles plays a touching blend of Americana and indie folk. His songs consist of acoustic guitar and vocals, occasionally accompanied by harmonica and keys. Despite the minimalistic setup, Josiah and the Bonnevilles are more than just another iteration of the “man and a guitar” trope; he tailors his music and performance to the taste of his audience. He told the crowd he had no problem being known as “the cover guy;” he’d sing whatever it took to see those pleased looks on his audience’s faces. Singing for a crowd is, in his own words, “the greatest honor of my life.”

Josiah and the Bonnevilles set an intimate and introspective tone for the night by kicking it off with “Back to Tennessee.” His music is an expression of his life experiences and upbringing. After “Cold Blood,” an ode to his struggles with addiction and mental health, and “Six Dollar Check,” a playful tune poking fun at streaming royalties, Leming cheekily announced that he would perform the Trinity of Heartbreak—three songs dedicated to a past relationship—and then not speak about the gut-wrenchingly sad songs or the story behind them for the rest of the night. The song “Stolen Love” commemorated falling in love, “Burn” marked the height of his heartbreak, and “Hey Violet” closed the chapter with an air of resolution, hope, and forward movement, leaving his audience, like Lemming himself, ready to move on from the angst.

The rituals he performed on stage exemplify his passion. He lovingly told the audience the stories behind each piece while quietly strumming along as though sitting around a campfire in Appalachia. After singing, he would step out of the spotlight to tune his guitar. He joked that he liked it when the audience “debriefed” during this time; silence made him nervous. Leming gifted his pick to an audience member after each song, once asking the crowd to pass it on to a fan at the back of the venue.

For the show’s next segment, Leming strapped on his harmonica holder to perform a series of country covers. He started with Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” and then moved to Elle King’s “Jersey Giant.” Leming sang Justin Bieber’s “Ghost” after a heartfelt dedication to his mother, who lost her battle with cancer. He stopped singing during an extra chorus he tacked on at the end, and emotions ran high as the audience sang it for him.

Leming’s gratitude for his fans and his success seeped through every moment of his performance. He smiled and thanked the audience profusely, saying, “It’s all for you” and “I love y’all so much” repeatedly. Josiah and the Bonnevilles wrapped up with “Basic Channels” after a few more songs.

Leming could hardly part from his audience; he was only backstage for thirty seconds before coming back for an encore in a flurry of waves, smiles, and heart-shaped hand gestures. He acknowledged it was late on a Tuesday and asked the audience if he could sing again: “I’ve got three more on my heart.”

Josiah and the Bonnevilles transitioned to a keyboard on the far right of the stage, playfully tapping out the first few notes of the “Cheers” theme song. He thanked those who saw him at other Boston venues that hosted him at the beginning of his career, notably the Middle East and Cafe 939, before playing “One Last Song.” After the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to him again, he finished the concert off with “Lithuania,” a cheeky story about Leming getting banned from United Airlines, and “Blood Moon,” one of his most famous songs. 

Despite the delayed start, Josiah and the Bonnevilles’ Tuesday show at Paradise Rock was undoubtedly successful. Leming’s ability to imbue even the most mundane with meaning, like getting a six-dollar check or watching the primary cable television channels, reflects his gratitude for his musical success. The show felt incredibly intimate with his twangy voice, soulful guitar, and the audience quietly singing. Anyone looking for a personal and poignant performance that captures the Appalachian spirit should add Josiah and the Bonnevilles to their list. Leming said he’ll never forget turning 35 in Boston, and the audience certainly won’t either.