Monday, March 26, 2012

Concert Review | The Head And The Heart at The Pageant in Saint Louis

 Photo by Louis Kwok

Call it one drink too many
Call it pride of a man
But it don't make no difference if you sit or you stand
'Cause they both end in trouble and start with a grin
Yeah they both end in trouble and start with a grin

Forget about being ready. These days, to an extreme, it's about striking while the iron is hot, and The Head and The Heart's buzz may not ever be greater than it is now.

That's probably unfair to everyone involved with the band from Seattle; after all, the sextet only has one album, carried by three very good songs: "Rivers and Roads," "Lost In My Mind," and "Down in the Valley." The rest of the equation has a few wrinkles -- nothing that their potential as a band can't fix -- but it's going to take more than a sizzling iron to meet upcoming expectations, and there will be many.

I've had a few of my own.

Just nine months ago, I saw the band at Blueberry Hill, along with three hundred or so others. I had just gotten back from Bonnaroo, carrying with me a "this better be good!" attitude to the show (a mistake, I know, but I had only showered once in five days, so lay off). And what do you know? They were more than good that night. Their set was brief, yet exceptional, one of the best shows I had seen that year.

Last night, though, they were just good. Let me explain.

It's not as if their songs have magically gotten worse, or that their stage presence is lacking. No, those crucial parts are very much still intact, and for many, that is more than enough (as it probably should be). But when you go from a packed 300-capacity venue to a packed 2300-capacity venue, some things are going to have to change. And therein lies the problem: The Head and the Heart haven't had time to change in these past nine months.

Photo by Louis Kwok

Yes, there were new songs played, and the overall result was, at best, a mixed bag. Granted, these songs sounded like they would be changing a lot over the next few months, so there is nothing really to judge there. But -- and maybe this is just a case of me having the "the second show will hardly ever be better than the first" blues -- at times during the show, it felt like they were simply killing time with songs that should still be in the oven. Sure, parts sounded good; but the whole was a doughy mess, perhaps too much too soon.

And when the rubber met the road -- in this case, a much bigger stage and audience --The Head and The Heart could not just play for an hour like they did at Blueberry Hill nine short months ago. So, they played a ninety minute show that still should have been sixty or seventy. That's my take, like it or not.

(And to those of you who are probably wondering, "what did you expect?" Well, I recently saw The Civil Wars play out the same script in St. Louis -- from the Old Rock House to the Pageant -- and they hardly changed a thing. And the second show was much better than the first.)

Luckily, the great moments were still great, such as the opening trio of "Cats and Dogs," "Coeur D'Alene," and "Ghosts," the grand performance of "Lost In My Mind," which featured opening bands Black Girls and Drew Grow & the Pastors' Wives onstage acting like professional photo bombers, the calm before the eventual storm of "Rivers and Roads," which featured a punch of thunder from singer/violinist Charity Rose Thielen, and the last song of the night, "Down in the Valley." 

The problem is, those were same moments I remembered from last time. 

The future may indeed be bright for The Head and The Heart -- only later, rather than sooner. And I'll gladly wait it out.

Photo by Louis Kwok

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