Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jayhawks thrill audience at tour-ending stop at The Coach House

The Jayhawks thrilled at a concert at The Coach House on
Jan. 12, 2015, performing more than two dozen songs.
Roots-and-country-rock outfit the Jayhawks wrapped up a short six-date West Coast tour with a memorable 25-song concert at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Jan. 12. The series of dates that included the stop in Orange County, CA was not simply a way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group’s founding, but was the Minneapolis-born troupe’s chance to focus on the timeless material featured across a trio of outstanding albums recorded between 1997-2003 (Sound of Lies, Smile and Rainy Day Music) with the lineup that recorded the discs – all of which were remastered and reissued as expanded deluxe editions in 2014.

Gary Louris at The Coach House.
At the Coach House, singer-guitarist Gary Louris led the seven-member outfit through a treasure trove of the Jayhawks beloved Americana songbook. Opening with the up-tempo “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” from 2000’s Smile, the song blended Louis’ easy vocals and harmonica shadings with his radiating Rickenbacker guitar sound. The energy of the night and magic of the performances never wavered as the ensemble masterfully fused elements of folk, rock, power-pop, psychedelic and bluegrass into a genre-defying tapestry that enhanced the power of each song.

“Big Star” blazed with buzzsaw guitars mixed in with Jessy Greene’s fiddle and Karen Grotberg’s keyboards to showcase the band’s hard-edged instincts. “Stumbling Through the Dark” succeeded with a more wistful touch, with keyboards and mandolins providing rich layers in a ravishing baroque pop soundscape. A similar level of craftsmanship welcomed the Jayhawks’ version of “Smile” later that night, albeit that song was augmented by Louris’ fiery electric guitar work.

Drummer Tim O’Reagan was featured as lead vocalist on the beautiful “”Tampa to Tulsa,” with Jayhawks’ stellar harmonies on display. The discerning audience, who would cheer wildly after each song (thankfully not talking or blurting out in the middle of songs) seemed to welcome each new song like an old friend. A faithful version of the lovely “Blue,” melodic R.E.M.-ish “Save It for a Rainy Day” and magnificent “I’d Run Away” were among standouts of the later part of the marathon set.
Trapper Schoepp at The Coach House.
Opening the night was the Milwaukee alt-country rock band Trapper Schoepp & the Shades. The outfit’s 40-minute set was worth getting to the venue on time, with lead singer-guitarist Trapper Schoepp’s material somehow recalling a blend of Dawes, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle.  But Schoepp and company proved to be no simple knock-off, performing a mighty set including the rollicking title track off their 2012 LP Run, Engine, Run that was riveting.

Review: Robert Kinsler

Photos courtesy of Bob Steshetz

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