Nothing fancy here.
At least it didn’t seem fancy. It seemed simple and just right.
Watching The Jayhawks’ lead electric guitarist Gary Louris softly slide around the fretboard of his Gibson SG all night made me think, "Hey, I could do that."
He just made everything look so damn easy. Couple that with his soaring tenor vocals that are so naturally un-strained.
But it’s not easy. The fact of the matter is that Louris was just born to do this.
On an emotional night at the Beaumont, about 800 fans – including Louris’ octogenarian mother – were treated to polished song after song from The Jayhawks, including a bunch off their stellar new album, Mockingbird Times.
"I’ll be honest, I’m getting a little teary up here," confessed Louris. "We first came here about 25 years ago but there were like, 700 less people. But we got all the songs and we’ll keep ’em coming, so just sit back and relax."
I took his advice as the band launched into Two Hearts off their 1995 album Tomorrow the Green Grass. The band sounded full and balanced, if a little bit restrained at first.
Founding members Mark Olson, Louris and Marc Perlman were complimented nicely by Tim O’Reagan on drums and Karen Grotberg on keyboards and harmonies. While the rhythm section certainly didn’t do anything flashy, they were solid and consistent, providing the straight-forward backdrop that is characteristic of many Jayhawks songs.
Next the band trotted out Closer to Your Side, a song off the new album that sounds like a missing track from 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall that features a fancy little acoustic hammer-on riff to start, and, of course, the trademark perfect octave harmonies of Olson and Louris. They followed that with another oldie, Take Me With You (When You Go), before returning to some of the new material.
Though sometimes audiences get frustrated when bands refuse to revisit their older, and thus more familiar, material, that was not the case on Saturday night. New songs were received just as enthusiastically as the hits, some even more so.
Such was the case as the band sandwiched their likely most familiar song, the classic Blue, between two new ones – the jangly up-tempo She Walks in So Many Ways and Tiny Arrows.
Blue had the audience fired up the moment that the opening 12 string riff echoed through the Beaumont, with the crowd singing along every step of the way.
After playing their biggest hit, the band did the right thing by following it with Tiny Arrows, a song that sounds like it could have been a Neil Young hit. Louris’ guitar playing was out front, but not in a piercing way, as some bands end up doing. No, Louris was all about the tone on this one, an underrated and often unrecognized talent that is derived as much from experience as it is from just having a natural ear.
For me, Tiny Arrows was easily the best song of the night.
In keeping with their practice of mixing old and new, next up was another off Tomorrow the Green Grass, the sentimental favorite I’d Run Away, followed by the equally touching Angelyne that featured some nice harmonica work from Louris.
After ending the nearly hour-long set with Black-Eyed Susan and Miss Williams Guitar, there was no doubt that an encore was on the way. The band, after starting off a bit chilly, had slowly burned their way into a groove, getting stronger and stronger with each song.
The encore started with a really nice version Tampa to Tulsa from their 2003 album Rainy Day Music, which featured drummer O’Reagan on lead vocals. The final two songs were, fittingly, off what I consider their best album, Tomorrow the Green Grass.
"This is the first song people ever heard from us on a national level," explained Olson before sliding into Over My Shoulder, which was followed by Bad Time to round out the night.
In total, The Jayhawks played for roughly an hour and a half, delivering a excellent performance that was solid. When they finally exited the stage for good, I was left wanting to hear more.
Which is not a knock on the band. Quite the contrary, actually.