April 23rd 2017 was the culmination of a twenty year odyssey. I have been trying in one way or another to see The Jayhawks since discovering them in 1997. The Jayhawks are without a doubt one of the greatest bands to come out of the 90’s alt rock, alt country, country tinged rock, or whatever scene they always seem to land in. I have always admired the musicianship and mighty songwriting ability of Gary Louris and company, their lush vocal harmonizing paints many vivid pictures of loneliness and heartache coupled with bright and positive undeniable feel good rock and roll. It was a total privilege to finally see them at The Birchmere in Alexandria Virginia.
The show began with “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, a track from their 2000 release Smile. The song played to perfection set the tone for what was to be a masterful performance of songs from all eras. The second song (one of my all time favorites) “The Man Who Loved Life” kicked in and blew me away. For years I had been wondering how it would sound live. I was amazed at how much power and control this band had over their material. Sometimes in the music scene we all fall victim to becoming a bit jaded after watching and performing over the years, it can happen to the best of us. In this case I was transported back to a time when the music was new and every listen was a present just for the listener to unwrap and discover. New songs “Leaving The Monsters Behind”, “Lovers Of The Sun”, “The Devil Is In Her Eyes”, “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces”, sat in perfect harmony with old favorites “Blue, Trouble”, “Waiting For The Sun”, “Sister Cry” and many more. I particularly enjoyed the ache of “Tampa To Tulsa” and Tim O’Reagan’s haunting vocal lent a heavy weight to the fable of “Long Distance Love”. All in all this was by far one of the best shows I have ever seen. Watching a group such as this playing through songs from their extensive catalog with such ease and skill was a total thrill.
After the show the band took time to speak to every one who stayed to chat. It is always very refreshing when you meet your heroes and find genuine warmth and humanity. So in parting I give my utmost thanks and appreciation to Gary Louris, Karen Grotberg, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan, and all the others who made this such a great and memorable experience. Also be sure and check out the new Ray Davies record Americana featuring none other than The Jayhawks as his backing band…who could ask for anything more. Except more Jayhawks records!
About the writer: Dave Dembitsky is a producer/engineer and operator of The House Of Lou Recording Studio in Norfolk Virginia. He also plays guitar in Last Remaining Pinnacle and is the co-host of the Custom Made Music Radio Show.