Joe Henry recently stopped by World Cafe’s studios to chat with host David Dye and perform a few songs from Invisible Hour.
JH finished up his all-too-brief U.S. tour on Friday evening in Boston. His next scheduled performances are in Australia in early September, followed by an appearance in Nashville for the Americana Music Festival.
In the meantime, here are a couple of noteworthy links from the past week or so:
- NPR’s Weekend Edition (interview plus full performances on website)
- Boston Globe
- WFUV live in studio (interview on website, video performances on YouTube)
This was my third Joe Henry show at Largo in Los Angeles, and if you’ve ever attended one of these shows, you know they are something special – a hometown show in front of a rapt audience, including many friends and family. Saturday evening’s performances – an early acoustic solo set followed by a full band show – were no exception while also being quite exceptional. The chance to see two unique performances in one evening is rare enough; to see JH perform with some of his most trusted allies – Patrick Warren on piano, Levon Henry on sax and clarinet, Jennifer Condos on electric bass, Jay Bellerose on drums and percussive racket and Greg Leisz on acoustic guitar and lap slide guitar – is nothing short of amazing (not to mention increasingly rare due to the demand on these players’ schedules).
Naturally both sets featured many songs from the new release, Invisible Hour. JH was bristling with energy, humor and confidence during both sets, an impressive feat considering he’d played the night before in San Francisco. Largo audiences are simply the best listeners I’ve ever encountered at any venue in the United States, and I can’t really tell you anything about this show that isn’t obvious by my description so far. It was announced that Joe would sign CD’s after the show, and true to form, he sprung into the courtyard mere minutes after walking offstage to greet a sizable number of friends and fans. I said a very brief hello and goodnight, and I imagine that he was there until the early morning hours, friendly and courteous as always.
I’ve tried to recall the general setlist from my bleary-eyed memory (please send me corrections and omissions if you have any). I’ve denoted the songs as follows – *both sets, +acoustic set, ^band set:
- Eyes Out For You*
- Believer (new song described as a cross between “Amazing Grace” and “Let’s Get It On”)+
- Invisible Hour*
- Grave Angels*
- Monkey (piano)*
- Our Song (piano)+
- Lead Me On+
- After The War+
- God Only Knows (piano)+
- Progress of Love^
- All Blues Hail Mary (really awesome – probably my fave of the night)^
- You Can’t Fail Me Now^
- Every Sorrow^
- Trampoline (with 14 yr old Charlie Hickey – really beautiful)+
- Kindness of the World+
And, of course, JH and Levon are back on the road this week, starting with The Birchmere in D.C. this Tuesday. Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion will be joining him, and they are well worth catching as well.
UPDATE: Fantastic review from The Hollywood Reporter. Full setlist included in the article.
As Joe and Levon make their way across Spain, they had a little time for some performing and videography…
Joe Henry will kick off the European leg of his tour in support of Invisible Hour today in London (full tour date schedule here). The tour hits several countries over the next two weeks, before returning to the U.S. for a brief trek (starting June 20 in San Francisco).
In other touring news, Time Is A Lion reports that JH will be touring Australia in September (dates listed here).
And finally, to get you further excited about next week’s album release, check out last week’s performance at WXPN.
(Apologies for the relative lateness of this post, but as you know – since you are reading this post at the new site – I’ve been a little busy with the move of the blog. Thanks for your patience and thanks for checking out the new blog location. – DK)
Josh Hurst – a friend and occasional contributor to this blog – joked this past weekend about how he personally “willed into existence” last year’s collaboration between Elvis Costello and The Roots, two acts for whom he is very passionate. One could make a similar observation that Wild Edges – a commissioned performance of original songs from Joe Henry, Over The Rhine and The Milk Carton Kids – might have likewise been the result of subconscious prayer and wishful thinking from Josh, myself or any number of fans of these intertwined talents.
Setting aside the complete uniqueness of the event (over two nights at Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center), one could conceivably worry that the endeavor would look better on paper than it would sound in execution. It is, after all, a tall order for artists to compose and perform original music, never heard in public in any format, and connect it to the ears of an expectant audience. If anticipation was already high, the stunning and intimate setting of the Hayti certainly raised the stakes.
All that said, however, it will surprise few readers of this blog that I and – judging from their exuberant reaction – nearly everyone in attendance walked away from the two nights with all expectations met and exceeded, not to mention souls and spirits nourished and renewed. The premise was to connect selections from the Great American Songbook – which in this context was represented by inspirations such as “Delia’s Gone”, “The Needle and The Damage Done”, “Spring Can Hang You Up The Most” and many others – to the new songs. Those connections were occasionally explicit but mostly provided springboards for the compositions, which, according to Henry, would have to “fight it out in the streets,” just like any other songs.
And fight they did; though in these capable hands, they mostly floated like butterflies while occasionally stinging like bees. Almost every song had something unique to offer. Henry’s “The Glorious Dead” certainly sounded like something lifted directly from his own songbook, but, as Linford Detweiler pointed out, sounded like “an unearthed hymn.” “Dangerous Love” was a swinging tune on its own merits, but Levon Henry’s wicked saxophone solo that capped off the performance wrenched it off its foundations. Both evenings opened with “Los Lunas,” which was as perfect a song as I’ve heard Karin Bergquist sing, underpinned by Kenneth Pattengale’s lilting pedal steel. Joey Ryan had several standout performances, and his voice proved to be a key ingredient on many of the evening’s songs. Ryan reliably provided dry comic relief in between more than a few of the songs.
The cast was superbly accompanied by Henry regulars Jennifer Condos (bass) and Jay Bellerose (drums, percussion and assorted noise), along with Levon on clarinet and saxophone. The performances were packed with musical highlights but certainly his contributions were among the most indelible. Likewise, Pattengale no doubt shocked the audience with his vast reserves of instrumental talent, which included impressive work on pedal steel, dobro, electric guitar, accordion and piano. The number of participants ranged from two (when Pattengale accompanied Bergquist with his soulful piano on a tune only played during the second evening) to all participants, with all points in between as various cast members left the stage briefly. Unsurprisingly, with this batch of talent, the arrangements never threatened to overshadow or suffocate the songs themselves.
The proceedings were recorded by engineer Ryan Freeland for possible future release, and after two nearly flawless presentations, one should anticipate that little will prevent that from happening.
Followers of these acts are most likely the type of music fans who hold dear the notion that music is more than mere entertainment and can occasionally achieve transcendence. My guess is that all who bore witness to these miraculous two nights of music walked away with that assumption both intact and fortified.
Here are a couple of reviews from the local North Carolina press: