A fond farewell: Kovacs & the Polar Bear says goodbye to Chris Lee

Kovacs and the Polar Bear bid a reluctant farewell to multi-instrumentalist Chris Lee this weekend, sending the longtime contributor off with a headlining set at The Grey Eagle.

Lee will relocate to Portland later this spring, but he won’t be leaving Asheville empty handed. The songwriter celebrates the release of his debut solo effort with a performance at Emerald Lounge on April 14.

Fans turned out in force for Lee’s final show, filling the venue nearly to capacity — an impressive, and rare, showing for an all-local bill (Floating Action’s Joshua Carpenter opened). Appropriately, Kovacs began with Lee performing one of his originals at center stage, leaving fans to wonder if the set would focus on the departing songwriter. However, the band quickly returned to better-known crowd favorites like “Gold and Silver,” “Speckled Hen” and “Sweetheart.” But even from the wings, Lee’s multitasking skills were a sight to behold (he regularly plays bass and keys simultaneous while providing backing vocals), and it was clear that the gifted performer was enjoying his last waltz.

Midway through the set, Kovacs delighted the packed house with several new tunes — including a raw, echoey slow-burner — that featured Lee’s replacement, Casey Ellis, on bass. This was reassuring for fans, proving that Lee’s departure, though a big loss, is no threat to Kovacs’ bright future.

Check out these photos from the performance:

Photos by Rich Orris

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