Jayhawks Leave Audience Asking for More
By 10 p.m. at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern, the walls were already sweating. As Jayhawks’ frontman Gary Louris joked mid-set, “Our bus is going to be so sweaty tonight! We are just going to have to sweat it out.” Bodies crammed five abreast, from the stage to the rear of the venue, at the sold-out show. The show was the second of back-to-back gigs by the band, who played nearby Lee’s Palace the previous evening. People drove hours to get their roots-rock on and see Minneapolis’ favourite sons – The Jayhawks – dig back into their treasured song chest and also showcase tunes from their newest record Paging Mr. Proust, which dropped this past April to rave reviews.
Folk Uke, the duo of Cathy Guthrie and Amy Nelson, opened with a spirited set of originals. I always love discovering new musicians; these Texan song-slingers were one of these surprises. The duo come to the craft with royal songwriting pedigree; Cathy is the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie and Nelson is Willie’s daughter. The pair – one playing ukelele and the other acoustic guitar – won over the The Shoe audience with tongue-in-cheek sing-a-long songs like “Shit Makes The Flowers Grow,” “MotherFucker Got Fucked Up,” and “StarFucker.” They also did a sweet cover of Woody’s “California Stars.” How can you not like a band whose logo is a unicorn spewing a rainbow?
As the Horseshoe’s hallowed walls continued to heat up, bottles of Labatt 50 were consumed in haste; bodies pressed ever closer to the stage while Cuban salsa blared from the speakers; the patrons patiently waited for The Jayhawks to arrive. Finally, to the sound of discordant church bells, the five musicians strolled out. Leader Gary Louris picked up his trusty Gibson and wasted no time letting the red guitar sing; he and the band broke into a classic, now nearly 25 years old: “Waiting for the Sun” from 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall. From stage left, club owner Jeff Cohen watched on. So did Blue Rodeo’s bassist Bazil Donovan. The pair sang along, took videos with their smart phones, and sported permasmiles for the next two hours.
A new tune, “Leaving the Monsters Behind,” from Paging Mr. Proust, followed. This pattern – from old back to new songs – repeated over the course of this roots-rock marathon. A woman in the front waved a Chinese fan, trying to cool herself off, but the music just kept heating up; the Jayhawks found their groove and took the audience along song after song. Taking equal pages from Dylan, The Band, and The Beatles, the new tunes held up and were just as strong as the older ones. Other highlights from the new disc included: “Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces,” “Pretty Roses in Your Hair,” and “Isabel’s Daughter.”
Displaying their trademark three – and four-part harmonies, along with a mix of acousticaly-inclined gems (“Tampa to Tulsa,” “Stumbling Through the Dark,”) to name just a few, The Jayhawks proved that their tightness, talent, and ability to write and perform timeless songs is still strong.
After a stirring, stripped-down rendition of “Angelyne,” by just Louris and harmony by Folk Uke, the rest of the band returned, ending the night with a meandering, jammy “TailSpin.”
Fans sang along to each song, sweating, swaying and screaming. The mass streamed out to Queen Street as the final notes still echoed in their ears -reliving their favorite show moments on sidewalk conversations with friends, trying to keep this memorbale and magical musical night alive for just a little while longer.