Jayhawks – Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, MN)
For years, it seems Minnesotans have waited for the Jayhawks to become rock stars. It started with the critical buzz surrounding 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall, picked up speed when “Blue” became a minor hit in 1995, and was fueled by the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of the band’s shows behind Sound Of Lies and Smile. As the ’90s came to a close, running into a band member around town during a candid moment often led to confessions of frustration over the big break that never came.
When the band kicked off its Rainy Day Music tour at the Guthrie, though, something had clearly shifted for both the band and its hometown fans. Still a couple weeks shy of its street date, the new album had been hailed as a stripped-down return to the band’s roots. Fittingly, the Jayhawks took the stage as a trio — Gary Louris on acoustic guitar (with a few not-so-acoustic processors) and harmonica; Marc Perlman on upright bass, electric bass, and mandolin; and Tim O’Reagan on acoustic guitar and drums.
The evening wasn’t so much a performance as a gathering of old friends. It may have been a theater show with a sold-out crowd of 1,300, but it felt like a coffee shop gig. The moment he stepped onstage, Louris told the war-weary audience, “We’re here to take your mind off the world for a while,” and that’s exactly what they did.
Louris seems to have found new strength and warmth in his voice, bringing a new sincerity to the band’s older material. “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was dedicated to former keyboardist Karen Grotberg, who was in the audience. Another former bandmate’s influence was recalled on “Say You’ll Be Mine”, Louris’ recent co-write with former Jayhawk Mark Olson which appeared on Olson’s December’s Child album last year.
The 27-song set included material from all the Jayhawks’ albums except their out-of-print eponymous debut. “Five Cups Of Coffee” (from 1989’s Blue Earth, reissued in April on Restless/Ryko), “Clouds” (from Hollywood Town Hall), and “Two Hearts” (from ’95’s Tomorrow The Green Grass) mixed beautifully with Rainy Day Music tracks such as “Tailspin” and “Tampa To Tulsa”. Selections from Sound Of Lies and Smile, meanwhile didn’t miss the electric gloss to which they had become accustomed.
The encore opened with Louris’ solo renditions of “Waiting For The Sun” and “All The Right Reasons”, and aptly closed with old pals Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) and Jim Boquist (Son Volt) joining in on Golden Smog’s “Until You Came Along”.
The Jayhawks may never become rock stars, but this concert showed something far more important: On a day when people were walking around dazed by reports from the war, they brought a community together to share music and take comfort. All in attendance seemed to realize platinum records pale in comparison.