Anyone familiar with Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s music knows about the romance they share. The pair met in college and have been together ever since. Along the way, the couple created three kids, and numerous albums were in between performances that likely number in the thousands. They have their careers in music, both of which are successful, but there is something special about the chemistry they share with no one else on stage. There could be no one else in the room, and the Holcombs would still be having the time of their lives. Being together, it seems, is what matters most.
Love was in the air at Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre on Monday, February 11. A sold-out crowd of several hundred music fans trudged through the frozen midwest tundra to spend an evening with Drew and Ellie Holcomb, two of America’s greatest living songwriters, as they shared songs and stories from their life in music.
The show started at 8 PM sharp. There were no openers, no announcements, and no introductions. The lights began to dim as Ellie Holcomb, wearing a pink dress and heels, emerged onto the stage with a smile as wide as her face would allow. Drew followed close behind in a checkered blue and white shirt and khaki jacket wearing his signature hat. They sang before they spoke, all while sharing glances at one another that spoke volumes to the crowd. They would later swear they rehearsed, and even went so far as to share a silly song about harmonizing they allegedly made up while practicing, but everything that happened on stage felt as though it was born at the moment.
Taking turns playing favorite tracks from their catalogs, the Holcomb’s blazed through nearly a dozen songs before taking a brief intermission roughly fifty-five minutes into their performance. The highlight of that first set happened around 8:30 when two of the couple’s three children joined them on stage. They sang alongside their parents after Ellie shared a story about the creation of her recently released children’s book, Who Sang The First Song? The kids, both very young, were shy. Drew knelt beside them as Ellie lead, and by the final refrain, the whole family was singing together. “Now off to bed,” Ellie said when the applause died down. The crowd roared once more.
The second set contained magic as well. After opening with solo performances from each Holcomb, as well as a song from Ellie’s youngest sister, the pair shared their journey living with the packed room. They spoke of kids and arguments, of aging and becoming better people through one another. They made the life they built seem so simple, as though neither one could imagine existing any other way, and then they performed songs — mostly from Drew’s catalog — inspired by their stories.
“Now we don’t have time for everything people want to hear,” Drew said forty-five minutes into the second set, “but shout out anything you hope to hear.” Voices from the dark shouted out tracks spanning both Holcombs’ lives and catalogs, including b-sides and other rarities the casual fan wouldn’t recognize. “We’re not going to play those,” Drew fired back with a laugh, “but man, my ego feels good right now.”
The couple played a verse and a chorus from half a dozen fan requests before wrapping up their set with a rousing performance of “Ring The Bells,” a collaborative release they made with JOHNNYSWIM in 2018. The couple left the stage just long enough for the encore demands to begin before returning once more. They shared “The Wine We Drink” first, followed by a cover of Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” performed without microphones at the front of the stage. They asked the crowd to join them, and the group sang along as loud as they could. The song speaks of longing to return to the road because that’s where a life of making music with friends lies, and that night, in Grand Rapids, the Holcombs were surrounded by friends.