Singer-songwriter chronicles journey to Burlington stage


Alek Fleury

ZZ Ward performs at Higher Ground Feb. 18.

Dahlia Maleh, Arts Columnist

ZZ Ward made her way back to Burlington this past Presidents Day at 9 p.m. Feb. 18 at Higher Ground. The long wait standing on the dance floor for her to arrive on stage was worth it.

Fans showed up for the show; it was a packed house.

The concert-goers ranged from teens to the middle-aged. All admired Ward and her music.

“She has gotten me through a lot,” first-year Caitlin Hartman said at the concert. “Her music makes me feel stronger, happier and inspired.”

Growing up on a family farm in Oregon, Ward performed with her father’s blues band. There, she said, she learned the ropes of the business, how to play with other artists and what it is like to perform live.

Ward believes that without that opportunity, she would not be as comfortable on stage as she is now.

Ward said she finds it difficult to label herself with just one genre.

“I just write music that makes me feel good,” she said. “So what that turns out to be in the end, I don’t really know, I guess it just is me.”

Her new album, “The Storm,” had been in the works for a while. Ward took a five-year hiatus from releasing music.

To write her 2017 album, she had to “peel back a lot of layers and really dig deeper,” she said.  

The end result is a collection of songs that make you want to dance, cry and rock out.

Ward hopes that through her songs, her fans will know that they are not alone in the way they feel and that they are capable of overcoming anything, she said.

I reached out to my fans before the tour and asked them what they wanted to hear,” she said. “This is my longest show by far.”

The two-hour set was a versatile setlist of rhythm and blues, rock and hip hop jams.

While she sang her 2012 hit song, “Put the Gun Down,” everyone stomped their feet to the beat.

To slow things down for a moment, Ward pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang the ballad “If U Stayed,” which is about an old relationship that went astray. Her vulnerability gave a hush to the room and all eyes were on her.

Bethany Ornduff, an older fan, said she heard a song of Ward’s on TV and was “hooked ever since.” She brought along a group of her friends to introduce them to “true music and a great performer,” she said.

Ward hadn’t performed in Burlington in a long time and was quite happy to back, she said.

“Thank you for showing up,” she said to the crowd. “A lot of love has been put into this show and I am ready to share it. Let’s rock.”

And with that, ZZ Ward gave a performance that represented her life: the downfalls, the high points and hopes for the future.