For those of you who have been following this blog from the beginning may remember that my very first post was on the eponymous debut album from the Head and the Heart. In actuality, I began the blog because I felt so much passion while I listened to that album that I needed to put my thoughts and feelings into words. So when I found out, back in December, that they were going to be coming to Lawrence, KS (where I currently live), I immediately got myself a ticket.
Now another thing that regular readers may recall is that I am very passionate about live music. So going into the show, even though I had high expectations, I curbed my enthusiasm until the band started to play. Well, my expectations were met, and then some.
After an interesting opening set from Drew Grow & the Pastors’ Wives (they just weren’t my bag) and a 20 minute break, the lights went down and My Morning Jacket‘s “Wordless Chorus” started playing as the band stepped on to the stage. Once I heard that song, I had a very good feeling about what I was going to experience.
The group started out with the first three songs off their album, “Cats and Dogs,” “Coeur D’Alene,” and “Ghosts,” in that order. It’s very rare that a band will start their live set off with the opening track from an album, never mind the first three. Yet, in this case it worked, which is not that surprising since those three songs really do a wonderful job of engaging the listener, particularly the first two. The band was also on top of their game, sounding as wonderful and passionate as they do on their album.
Moving through a handful of new/unreleased songs as well as couple of tracks from their album, the group’s performance hit their first apex, when they performed “Lost In My Mind.” Being one of the band’s best and most exciting songs, it was not unexpected to see the audience get super into the song. Yet, it was the band’s excitement that really got me going. Not only were they playing extremely well, but they were truly enjoying themselves on stage, getting into the music in a way that you only hope to see from a band. It was genuine. It was real. And it made the show that much better.
This same type of emotion was evident through the entire show. Drummer Tyler Williams and bassist Chris Zasche could be seen singing along with Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russell, and Charity Thielen (who was also celebrating her birthday), even though they were not being miked. The only one not singing was pianist, Kenny Hensley, but his playing spoke volumes about how he was feeling on stage.
After performing a few more songs (two being unreleased), the band’s emotion erupted once again during “Rivers and Roads,” which was the last song before the encore. As the song built to its first climax, Russell, who was playing shakers, began jumping off the drum platform every time Williams crashed. Then as the music dropped out, Thielen began to build up the refrain, until she was belting it out in a fury of passion. The song then exploded with the entire band exuding an incredibly energy, before the outro of vocal harmonies and drum hits closed out the song. (Here’s a clip of the performance. I did not take this and it is only about 3:00 of the song.)
The band left the stage for a few minutes before Russell and Thielen came out to do “Chasing a Ghost,” a duet that was only released on their iTunes Sessions download. This was followed by a new song, “Attic Ladder,” before closing the show with “Down In The Valley.” While the encore never reached the same fevered pitch as the regular set’s finale (though “Down In The Valley” came close), it was still excellent, showcasing the vocal prowess of the trio of singers, and just the overall ability of an incredibly talented band.
I came away from this show being more excited about this band. They were a true joy to see live, having the raw, genuine passion and excitement of musicians who love what they are doing. The songs I knew sounded fantastic, and the songs I never heard before where just as good, which gives me a lot of hope for the future. If they come to your town and your a fan of their music, do not miss them. You will regret it if you do.