The Jayhawks' Gary Louris remarked that the last time the band hit Salt Lake City, they were opening for the Black Crowes, a Salt Palace show in the early '90s. After delivering an excellent sold-out show Saturday, here's hoping the band finds its way back a little more often.
This is the Jayhawks' first tour since the two originating songwriters, Louris and Mark Olson, rejoined forces with the lineup of arguably the band's greatest success, 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass album. I prefer 1992's Hollywood Town Hall myself, but no matter—Saturday's show was full of songs from both of those records, along with a dose of songs from the band's 2011 release, Mockingbird Time.
Perhaps most striking at Saturday's show was how much Olson plays the frontman. Given that the Jayhawks went on for years making new music after he left the band in 1995, it was easy to assume Louris would be front and center. And while his songs and guitar playing were certainly vital to the strength of Saturday's show, it was Olson who led the charge from center stage, playing an acoustic guitar and singing up a storm.
The show opened with Olson's "Wichita," and from that moment on, the amazing harmonizing between him and Louris was in full effect. I found myself surprised that songs I thought Olson sang on record were actually Louris tunes, or vice versa. The fact is, both deliver the rootsy rock of the Jayhawks with ease vocally, and they're never better than when both are singing together.
The band alternated between old and new tracks early in the set. For every Mockingbird Time song like "Cinnamon Love," "Closer to Your Side" or "She Walks in So Many Ways," there soon followed an older track like "Take Me With You (When You Go)," "Blue" or "I'll Run Away." The pacing was great, and the ability of the new tracks to live easily next to songs that fans have been listening to for 20 years shows just how strong Mockingbird Time is in its own right.
As the show progressed, the set leaned more heavily on older songs. "Angelyne" was a definite highlight, as was the beautiful ballad "Two Hearts." Olson's ode to his ex-wife Victoria Williams, "Miss Williams' Guitar," was great to hear, as was the gorgeous "Settled Down Like Rain."
"Up Above My Head," released last year as a bonus track on the reissued Hollywood Town Hall, gave the show a good gospel jolt as it came to a close. And an encore that closed it down with what might be the Jayhawks' most popular song, "Waiting for the Sun," made for a perfect capper.
Locals Paul Jacobsen and the Madison Arm opened the show, hopefully making a few converts to their own rootsy sound via a set including "Western Skies" and "Apocalypse Wow."
All photos by Meredith Newsome