The Jayhawks – HMV Forum (London- August 5th, 2011)
You know the sense you get when meeting up with an old friend, whom you haven’t seen for years, but it seems like you only last spoke yesterday – well that’s what it felt like seeing the Jayhawks playing tonight at the Forum. Mark Olson, a founding member left the band in 1995 so it’s been a just over a decade and a half since what came to be regarded as the classic Jayhawks line up played together. With Olson on acoustic guitar, Gary Louris on electric guitar, Marc Perlman on bass, Karen Grotberg on keyboards and Tim O’Reagan on drums there was a sense of high anticipation amongst the audience who must have numbered somewhere in the region of 1500 on this hot summer night in London and they were not disappointed!
Louris and Olson, a match made in heaven or somewhere close by, created the seminal Jayhawks sound with intricate lyrics and soaring harmonies. Why they, as probably one of the first bands to be dubbed ‘Americana’, never really made it big is a mystery to many but for those ‘in the know’ they will always be regarded as such an influential band.
Tonight’s set list which ran to twenty-four songs at an hour and three quarters long, featured songs from just three albums – 1992’s HOLLYWOOD TOWN HALL, 1995’s TOMORROW THE GREEN GRASS and 2011’s MOCKINGBIRD TIME (slated for a September release) and one surprise of which more later.
Opening with Wichita they looked totally at ease with each other and the performance was energetic, tight and one which very much created a sense of ‘we’ve missed you’ amongst the crowd. Not ones to say much between songs, Olson did pause ahead of Red’s Song to dedicate it to Grotberg and later on Louris dedicated Nevada, California to all the fans who had literally travelled continents to be at the show – Europe, Middle East and South America.
Probably their best known song is Blue and literally from its first note they had the audience singing along, word perfectly, without any prompting. The same happened as they strode into I’d Run Away. The body language on stage suggested that here was a band enjoying being back in each other’s company and playing for an audience that had largely been around since the early days. In fact Olson reminisced that they’d first played in London at the World’s End pub, which was just a stone’s throw from tonight’s venue, and to judge by the response to his comments, it was clear that more that just a fair few in the audience tonight, had been at that gig too.
Enthusiasm greeted all the well-known songs and quiet respect greeted the material played from the upcoming album; five songs including the single She Walks In So Many Ways, which has already become a fan favourite through radio and online play, were showcased. Indications are that the upcoming release takes them back to the elements that made TOMORROW THE GREEN GRASS such a firm favourite and time will tell as to whether this will be the break they so richly deserve.
Completing the main set with Over My Shoulder the crowd’s enthusiastic applause and vocal encouragement was such that they returned for not one but two encores. During the first four-song encore O’Reagan took the lead with his composition Tampa to Tulsa from 2003’s RAINY DAY MUSIC – that was the surprise. The second and final encore was given over to the new Hide Your Colours and finished with the old, and much loved, Sister Cry.
A triumphant return to a city the Jayhawks appear to associate with fondly. If my sources are correct they will be back in early 2012 and I for one will be at the front of the queue! Brilliant, just brilliant! Jela Webb