Words // Scott Pingeton
Since last December when I named The Head And The Heart's self-titled debut one of my favorite albums of 2010, the band has been pretty busy - they announced that they had signed to Sub Pop records, toured with both Dr. Dog and My Morning Jacket and played pretty much every major festival you can think of. Not a bad year. Still, before last Friday the band had never played a headlining show in Boston. From the time they took the stage at a very sold out Royale, a rowdy Friday-night crowd made the Seattle-based band feel welcome.
They humbly announced "we're The Head And The Heart, we're from Seattle Washington...let's have some fun" before launching into album opener "Cats & Dogs". The capacity crowd was vocal from the start, singing along with every word and screaming their approval at the end of each song - and often in the middle of the song. At times I was taken aback by the response, and the band seemed genuinely surprised as well. In any case, I've never seen a crowd at Royale so enthusiastic, and the band returned the favor.
As expected, the set drew heavily from the self-titled debut, but also included a few new/unreleased songs that I hope might be a preview of the band's sophomore LP. "Josh McBride", a song that has been circulating for a while, pairs softly crooned vocals with gently-picked acoustic guitar - one of the most tender songs in the band's catalogue. Another of the new songs (title help?) features a bouncy piano line, harmony vocals and tempo changes that recall the Dr. Dog. Neither strays too far from the folk-pop formula that found success on the band's first record.
An early highlight came halfway through the set as the band played "Lost In My Mind" while the crowd absolutely lost theirs. From there the show built to it's second climax, the singalong set-closer "Rivers & Roads". A two-song encore started with "Gone, a new song played solo-acoustic by Jonathan Russell with backing vocals from everyone else in the room. "Down In The Valley" closed the show, and provided one last chance for the crowd to sing along at the top of their lungs.
Live, the band plays each song as a near note-perfect recreation of the studio version, but what might be lacked in spontaneity is more than make up for with enthusiasm. It's obvious that the band is having a great time on stage, led by Charity Rose Thielen who dances and smiles her way through every song, and the energy is contagious.
The full set is available for stream/download below in fantastic sound. Huge thanks to the staff at Royale and The Head And The Heart - if you download the recording please support the band and buy their music. Check back for recordings from Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and The Devil Whale.
The Head And The Heart
Royale - Boston, MA
September 30, 2011
Full set download: mp3 zip