The Jayhawks at The Button Factory March 13th 2012

Review: Justin McDaid
Photos: Kieran Frost

It’s been a long day for The Jayhawks. Up and on the road since 5am to make their way to The Button Factory, the band is looking slightly bedraggled but nonetheless geared up for the appreciative crowd that fills the venue. Their latest album ‘Mockingbird Time sees them on top form after an eight year absence since their 2003 release ‘Rainy Day Music, and fans old and new are in fine fettle judging from the general air of revelry and craic in the crowd before proceedings kick off.

Support comes from Richmond Fontaine duo Willy Vlautin and Dan Eccles – freed from promotional duties of last years ‘The High Country’ album which they brought to a packed Workman’s Club in November – treating the crowd to a selection from the band’s back catalogue. The patter is easy and jocular from Vlautin throughout, with anecdotes leading into songs and back again. He introduces The Boyfriends, dedicated with a sardonic swipe to his mother’s exes, followed by Lost in the Trees from ‘The High Country’. ‘Post to Wire’ album reject, and one of the singer’s own favourite Richmond Fontaine songs Don’t Go Back There, comes next, followed by the title track itself. These tracks tonight are stripped bare, just Vlautin’s voice and acoustic with Eccles’ ethereal guitar lifting it all, the perfect accompaniment to Vlautin’s distinctive vocal style.

The high point of the set, and the night, comes with a completely mesmerising version of Lost in This World, with Eccles’ lap steel guitar rising above everything and echoing through the room, haunting and forlorn. It’s a laid back affair all in, with the two lads clearly enjoying themselves as much as the crowd, finishing an over-all-too-soon set with You Can Move Back Here before retiring to the merch stand.

The Jayhawks are warmly welcomed, kicking off with Wichita and Cinnamon Love, and straight away those distinctive four voice harmonies are soaring through the venue. It’s an all-encompassing set tonight with songs from throughout their career, with ‘Tomorrow the Green Grass’ and ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ given as much of an outing as new release ‘Mockingbird Time’.

The band battle through their fatigue, becoming more animated and loose as the night goes on. There is a certain element of comedic pathos in lead guitarist Gary Louris forgetting the support band’s name after Vlautin’s declarations of love for The Jayhawks, earlier recanting how their music saved his sister from a life of hippie-dom…this can of course be forgiven as they very nearly play this gig in their sleep. Not that it shows outside of the between song banter – the new material shimmers, while the band here and there kick it up a notch, as during Closer To Your Side, and I’d Run Away with the drummer punishing his floor tom while the guitars scratch out solos.

We are invited to join them on a ‘‘musical journey off ill-repute’’ for Tiny Arrows and Louris intermittently acknowledges requests for obscure tracks, with Sioux City from way-back-when getting an airing upon being shouted up from the crowd. Louris and Olson exchange lead vocal duties throughout the night while on keys, Karen Grotberg’s splashes of colour and vocal harmonies unify it all.

Miss Williams’ Guitar from ‘Tomorrow the Green Grass’ is a firm crowd favourite, and at one point Olson, gazing out over this crowd of…let’s say a certain vintage, declares himself proud of all of us for coming out to rock’n’roll on a Tuesday night. Gospel-tinged Up Above My Head is a celebratory end to the set with the band initially eschewing instruments for vocal harmonies while the crowd clap time until everyone tumbles in, with some lovely piano work from Grotberg.

Drummer Tim O’Reagan takes an impressive lead vocal for the first of the encore songs Tampa to Tulsa, while Olson then downs guitar and delivers a heartfelt How Can I Send Tonight (There to Tell You), the second of his solo efforts that the band play tonight. A cover of Delbert McClinton’s If You Really Want Me To brings us back to the band’s roots and the end of the night, before they close a satisfying and lengthy set with Bad Time, a gig highlight that the crowd goes mad for. It’s a true leave ‘em wanting more moment, and the band bows out on a wave of jubilation. The crowd likewise bows out – some for the bar and others for the Bovril after witnessing a class act, and a class gig.

The Jayhawks Photo Gallery

Photos: Kieran Frost