Concert Review + Photos | Jillette Johnson at The Firebird in St. Louis

All photos by Jason Gonulsen

The room is quiet, but Jillette Johnson prefers to be much more than that. Her voice is not subtle, and this trait suits her songs well; she often sings words that yearn for engagement.

“You guys are so far away,” she says. “But you don’t feel so far away.”

That’s Johnson’s hint for the crowd to move forward, if only a few feet. They stay in the back, arms folded, hesitant. They do listen, and that has to be good enough.

It’s good enough for now.

Johnson isn’t too interested in what she can’t control. She roars with the opening “True North” and covers Radiohead’s “Creep” with ease. She picks up a water bottle, takes a drink, and throws it behind her. Everything Johnson does is quick, but clearly in control.

To close, Johnson plays her best song, “Pauvre Coeur,” which is French for “poor heart.” It’s a song about an abusive relationship, a song that Johnson has no business writing at 24 years of age. Still, she comes out on the smart end when she sings, “If I recall it was a Friday / Gentle hum before the war / You were high and watching poker / And I had just walked in the door.”

Perhaps you’ve been there.

Solo performers are a dime a dozen these days, most being categorized as boring. I get that, but it’s not the problem here. The only issue I see is the time that stands between Jillette Johnson and the day when you’re affected by her music.

And as Cheryl Strayed once asked in similar fashion: Will you listen now, or will you listen later?

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