The Jayhawks, The Barbican (London, 3/8/12)
Tonight’s opener, Chuck Prophet, dedicated his song The Left Hand and the Right Hand to brothers* – The Gallaghers, Ray and Dave, Dave and Phil, Phil and Don, and Gary and Mark. The latter pairing, co-founders of alt-country icons The Jayhawks, are not siblings but their relationship does mirror what many brothers go through – a coming together, a separation then a well-received reconciliation. This particular reconciliation doesn’t just apply to the pairing of Louris and Olson but also to the re-forming of the seminal Jayhawks line up of aforesaid ‘brothers’ with bassist Marc Perlman, keyboard player Karen Grotberg and drummer Tim O’Reagan.
As soon as the five-piece walked onto the darkened stage, without any fanfare, to be greeted by loud applause, they launched straight into the opening song Wichita and that really set the format for the evening. By that I mean that the Jayhawks were pretty economical with between song chatter, preferring to let their music speak on their behalf to the (mostly) fifty-something crowd.
With the release of MOCKINGBIRD TIME last September they played a selection of these new songs (Cinnamon Love, Closer To Your Side, She Walks In So Many Ways, Tiny Arrows and Black Eyed Susan) but whereas in previous outings they have stuck pretty much to songs from 1992’s HOLLYWOOD TOWN HALL and 1995’s TOMORROW THE GREEN GRASS tonight they expanded their repertoire to also include A Break In the Clouds from 2000’s SMILE and Angelyne and Tampa To Tulsa from 2003’s RAINY DAY MUSIC. Furthermore there was a song from Olson’s Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers days How Can I Send Tonight (There To Tell You) and his solo work Clifton Bridge from SALVATION BLUES. It was amazing to hear Clifton Bridge delivered in harmony with Louris’ vocals.
A cover of Up Above My Head (Sister Rosetta Tharpe) saw opener Prophet join them, taking Olson’s acoustic guitar leaving him (Olson that is) to show off his gospel tinged vocals.
Throughout the evening the playing was tight; the clarity of sound was exceptional (you could hear each instrument and each vocal) and they just delivered song after song after song. Some might think that the lack of chatter with the audience took something away from the performance but not me! Hearing them in this setting made for one of the best Jayhawks shows I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a fair few in my time) and whilst the show finished promptly no one could feel that they had been at all short-changed with twenty-one songs played out tonight.
It remains a mystery to me why this band never really hit the ‘big time’ – their songs are so friendly on the ear, the harmonies are to die for and one can only hope that in this, their ‘second coming’ they get what they rightfully deserve – critical acclaim and commercial success. Jela Webb
* Liam and Noel Gallagher, Ray and Dave Davies, Dave and Phil Alvin and Phil and Don Everly
Wichita (Hollywood Town Hall)
Cinnamon Love (Mockingbird Time)
Pray For Me (Tomorrow The Green Grass)
Closer To Your Side (MT)
Take Me With You (When You Go) (HTH)
She Walks in So Many Ways (MT)
There’s No Place For People Like Him (Mystery Demos)
Tiny Arrows (MT)
I’d Run Away (TTGG)
Clifton Bridge (Salvation Blues)
Angelyne (Rainy Day Music)
Black Eyed Susan (MT)
Two Hearts (TTGG)
Miss Williams’ Guitar (TTGG)
A Break in The Clouds (Smile)
Settled Down Like Rain (HTH)
Up Above My Head (HTH Bonus Track)
Tampa to Tulsa (RDM)
How Can I Send Tonight (There To Tell You) (December’s Child)
Waiting For The Sun (HTH)