Concert Review: The Head and the Heart Bring Both to the Crystal Ballroom

Folk rock heroes The Head and the Heart took a break from a string of Christmas themed shows, held inside large arenas and featuring a lineup of bands, to something more their tempo selling out the intimate Crystal Ballroom on Tuesday in Portland, OR as headliners and gave the thankful crowd a full 18 song set lasting about 90 minutes.

The Seattle-based ensemble continued the popular “December to Remember” concert series held all month at the third-floor venue and sponsored by local radio station 94.7 KNRK. The band drew from their three albums and is currently enjoying heavy radio play for their latest single “All We Ever Do” off Signs Of Light released in September.

The Head and the Heart got right to it opening the evening with their smash hit “All We Ever Knew” followed by “City of Angels” and the catchy “Ghost,” which and big props to the band, definitely sounds ghostly but in a charming sort of way. With two of the band’s more upbeat rocking songs out of the way the remainder of the evening fell into a groove more amenable to The Head and the Heart’s roots.

Much of the setlist tapped their latest and debut albums like the pleasant “Take a Walk” and the crowd simply ate up the great “Lost in My Mind” and “Down in the Valley” both off 2010’s The Head and the Heart. The title track to their second album Let’s Be Still was an emotional punch ending with an equally strong jam and the clever “Cats and Dogs,” saved until the four-song encore, worked really well.

Just after the midway point through the show, singer Jonathan Russell began “Oh My Dear” with the rest of his bandmates off stage but it clumsily came across more like amateur mic night, then a few minutes later the band emerged and sailed the song home. Contrarily, he returned to the stage alone on piano during the encore for “Your Mother’s Eyes” and absolutely killed it.

Overall, The Head and the Heart played tight – a well-done accomplishment considering six musicians, three singers at times producing winsome harmonies, and guitarist Matt Gervais (who married violinist and co-singer Charity Rose Thielen a few years ago)  occasionally taking up the keyboards – but not always clean. A bit of dawdling at times and Russell on several occasions spent time tuning his guitar.

The setlist also needs a makeover in the placement of songs. The band ended the concert with “Rivers and Roads” a slow lullaby which would have worked just about anywhere else in the show except the final song. And, why play your most popular song first? It’s quite likely why so many turned out in droves but that favorite track played everyday on the radio was done and gone in the first five minutes of the evening. Delaying the hit single keeps the anticipation flowing of what’s coming next and helps prevent energy drain by songs like “Library Magic” – way too lethargic – and “Winter Song” which needed just a dozen or so listening around a campfire in front of a 1966 VW Vanagon.

The new genre of folk rock, or perhaps more germane Coffee House Rock, might take a bit of patience and perseverance to meld with, especially for those coming from more uptempo rock music…or really anything that feels pedal to the metal when set alongside the likes of The Head and the Heart. It’s mellow and often serene sometimes hearkening back to the 60s while incorporating a bit of bluegrass and a sense of Midwest festivities in the town square.

Still, don’t let the laid back approach to song writing fool you. Yes, it might serve The Head and the Heart well to continue making songs with a bit more dominance like “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels” and perhaps that is a direction they’re taking since both highlight their latest album.

Nevertheless, on stage the band certainly plays like they’ve got a pulse. Drummer Tyler Williams wasn’t shy behind the set and appeared ready to break out a blistering fill at any given moment while Gervais, filling in for band co-founder and co-lead singer Josiah Johnson who took a break from touring to address some addiction issues, fingered through some solid solos and a few ripping chords during the most placid of songs.

The Head and the Heart Setlist at Crystal Ballroom

  1. All We Ever Knew

  2. City of Angels

  3. Ghosts

  4. Rhythm & Blues

  5. Another Story

  6. Take a Walk

  7. Library Magic

  8. Let’s Be Still

  9. Lost In My Mind

  10. Winter Song

  11. 10,000 Weight in Gold

  12. Oh My Dear

  13. Sounds Like Hallelujah

  14. Down In The Valley

  15. Your Mother’s Eyes

  16. Cats And Dogs

  17. Shake

  18. Rivers And Roads


Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Jimmy Eat World – Sure and Certain in Portland

Jimmy Eat World gave a sold out crowd packed inside the Crystal Ballroom at least one day in December to remember with an impressive 23 song set on Monday touching seven of nine studio albums including six off their latest Integrity Blues.

The band, currently on tour supporting Integrity Blues, continued a string of sold out performances as part of local radio station 94.7 KNRK’s annual “December to Remember” concert series held at the stuffy, mostly standing room only, third-floor venue in downtown Portland. Jimmy Eat World could be considered elder statesmen compared to most of the acts booked this month but the foursome (along with a fifth touring member) from Mesa, AZ certainly raised the bar and showed how it’s done.

The band started the evening with “Get Right” from Integrity Blues, followed by the rocking title track off their hit album Bleed American, and “I Will Steal You back,” the only cut off 2013’s Damage. Then some big riffs with “Big Casino,” one of two, from Chase This Light before diving back into their latest fare with the mellow “You With Me.”

It was an efficient and productive evening as Jimmy Eat World wasted little time getting straight to business ripping through song after song finishing the robust and diverse setlist in just under an hour and 45 minutes. The show integrated a career spanning catalogue of songs proficiently bouncing from album to album save for a few back-to-back blocks off Futures and Clarity as the evening featured a mix of tunes stretching back to 1999’s Clarity and every album since then.  Big praise to whoever decided on the order, too, as boisterous, uptempo cuts embracing classic 90s alternative riffs, some punk rock and even metal always seemed to follow or precede something more akin to a ballad, but certainly slower paced nonetheless, preventing any momentum loss in an overall outrageously energetic show.

Yet, even when the band slowed the tempo, melody rich songs like “You Are Free,” “23” and “Polaris,” which shined the spotlight on bassist Rick Burch, thoroughly consumed the room. And, don’t forget “Pass the Baby.” A totally different arrangement than just about anything else written and recorded by Jimmy Eat World and truthfully it’s the one “skip this” recording from Integrity Blues but it is absolutely special live.

Jimmy Eat World might be best known for their smash hit “The Middle” and crowd favorite “Sweetness,” the evening finale which the band could have handed over vocal duties to the very thankful audience, but gems certainly shower every one of their albums. And oh how they’ve mastered writing catchy choruses that stick with you well after the show.

Check out “Lucky Denver Mint” coming near the halfway point of the show to cap off three straight from Clarity by following “Blister,” which handed off vocal duties to original singer and now fulltime guitarist Tom Linton, and “For Me This Is Heaven.” Then the punk-infused “Praise Chorus” was one of five from Bleed American coming in the middle of a dynamic three song stretch including “Always Be,” song two off Chase This Light , and the guitar driven “My Best Theory” the only cut from 2010’s Invented.

Then, of course, like all evening long, Jimmy Eat World dialed it back a bit with “Through” and the impassioned “23” before closing out the opening set with “Work” and “Pain” to wrap up three in-a-row from 2004’s Futures before the band headed off stage to stand by for the encore.

So, perhaps that’s what helps separate Jimmy Eat World from much of the alternative rock world and everything else garnering heavy radio play today. Smart arrangements, memorable phrasing, fun melodies and driving rhythms. Though Jimmy Eat World got its start in 1993 it wasn’t until after the 90s alternative rock craze that the band hit the charts with Bleed American in 2001 not only capturing the magic of that era but infusing their own blend of rock, pop and, heck, there was even a little bit of 80s in the set all while continuing to drive forward now nearly 20 years later releasing solid new material about every three years.

Adkins, guitarist and lead singer, didn’t formerly address the crowd until after “Polaris” when he said it was an honor to play and thanked the crowd for their support. Later, he joked about the band not going to the Grammy’s which probably wasn’t a fluke considering the release of the 2017 nominations today. But perhaps a fitting coincidence in the lyrics to the Crash Test Dummies sounding “Through” off Integrity Blues – “You don’t know what I do” – no, no they don’t.

Note to Adkins: If the Grammy’s don’t want you, then consider that a job well done.

Jimmy Eat World Portland Setlist at Crystal Ballroom

1.      Get Right
2.     Bleed American
3.     I Will Steal You Back
4.     Big Casino
5.     You With Me
6.     If You Don’t, Don’t
7.     Pass the Baby
8.     Just Tonight
9.     Polaris
10.   Blister
11.   For Me This Is Heaven
12.   Lucky Denver Mint
13.   You Are Free
14.   Always Be
15.   Praise Chorus
16.   My Best Theory
17.   Through
18.   23
19.   Work
20.   Pain
21.   The Middle
22.   Sure and Certain
23.   Sweetness

Written By: AndrewT