Last Night: The Jayhawks, Jolie Holland Granada Theater November 16
Better than: rummaging through closets for dubbed copies of Crossroads episodes.
Looking only at The Jayhawks' set list from last night, you could think the show was more for a hardcore fan than a casual one, but the power of the band transcended everything, making it a blissful 100-minute, 22-song set for the longtimers and newcomers.
When you put Mark Olson and Gary Louris together in a room with microphones and guitars, you're going to get plenty of magic. Add in the rest of the Tomorrow the Green Grass line-up and you have the audio equivalent of warm apple pie.
Olson, with a red bandana wrapped around his head, smiled throughout as the band featured a number of songs from their latest record, Mockingbird Time. Louris, looking like what Ben Folds could look like in 15 years, often sang with his eyes closed and walked through plenty of guitar leads with ease. Tim O'Reagan's gentle drumming and backing vocals added another critical dimension. He didn't over-play or under-play.
The glue for the whole show, though, was keyboardist/vocalist Karen Grotberg. Absent from the band since 2000's Smile, her presence was as welcome as Olson's, who had left the band in the mid-'90s. Coupled with Olson and Louris's gorgeous harmonies on Tomorrow the Green Grass, Grotberg's playing helped make songs like "Blue" and "I'd Run Away" into classics. She replicated those touches live, and it's impossible to imagine the songs without them.
Not only did the band play songs from their most-celebrated albums, Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass, they played a number of songs from Olson's solo projects, songs from albums cut without Olson, and even an old b-side from the mid-'90s. Flowing from the slow and soft to the more uptempo, there was very little drag and a pretty satisfied audience.
The band left the stage after "Up Above My Head," but the audience wanted more. The band could have come back and played for another hour, and the audience would still want more. Instead, five more songs were played, including "Tampa to Tulsa" with O'Reagan on lead vocals, and a cover of "I'm Down to My Last Cigarette" with Grotberg on lead vocals. Rounding everything out with their superior-to-the-original version of Grand Funk Railroad's "Bad Time," that was a wrap to a captivating evening.
Jolie Holland played for 35 minutes as the Granada quickly filled up. Playing solo with only a dark yellow Gibson and a capo, she opened with a Flatlanders tune and ended with a Townes Van Zandt song. In between, Holland had a certain sexy swagger in her voice. The kind of swagger you'd hear on old country tunes instead of modern pop country. But the longer she played, the limits of playing solo began to show. Every song felt the same in the basic sense and the crowd seemed to grow impatient with her.
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Critic's Notebook Personal bias: This was my first time seeing The Jayhawks live, but I'm not a newcomer to the band. I distinctly remember seeing them featured on MTV's The Week in Rock in 1992 and especially on VH1's Crossroads a couple years later. Loved Tomorrow the Green Grass and Smile while I was in college. And the first show I reviewed for DC9 was Louris and Olson's acoustic show at Sons of Hermann Hall.
Random quote: Jolie Holland told a funny joke in the middle of her set: "What did the Rasta say to the other Rasta in the unemployment line? Jah bless."
The Jayhawks' set list: "Wichita" "Cinnamon Love" "Two Angels" "Two Hearts" "Closer to Your Side" "Take Me With You (When You Go)" "She Walks In So Many Ways" "Blue" "Tiny Arrows" "I'd Run Away" "Clifton Bridge" "Angelyne" "Black-Eyed Susan" "Miss Williams' Guitar" "A Break in the Clouds" "Up Above My Head"
Encore "Tampa to Tulsa" "How Can I Send You Tonight (There to Tell You)" "Waiting for the Sun" "Over My Shoulder" "I'm Down to My Last Cigarette" "Bad Time"