Music

The Head and the Heart Get to Both at the Fox Theater

Even without frontman Johnson, The Head and the Heart host a soaring communal sing-along worthy of the price of admission.


Hurray for the Riff Raff

The Head and the Heart + Hurray for the Riff Raff

City: Tucson, Arizona
Venue: Fox Theater
Date: 2016-10-06

A swirl of voices, hundreds-strong, fill the halls of Tucson’s historic Fox Theater once its doors open for a night of music featuring The Head and the Heart. A folk rock outlet that started making a name for itself just seven years back, the college-age kids of which the primary demo present at the theater that night is comprised, represent a considerably younger populous than the theater, which usually books those around the tenure of Jackson Browne or Boz Scaggs, is particularly used to. Still, they’re particularly well-behaved and poised alongside the mostly eclectic crowd, still featuring older folks in seats and along the aisles once the show would start -- ones who would not dare miss a beat as they would stand, sing, and dance along in just as dedicated a fashion as the youngsters.

This is a testament to the widespread appeal that an outlet like Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell’s brainchild, who were nearly immediately signed to Sub Pop Records following the release of their self-titled debut back in 2010 and who made quite the cult splash with songs like “Down in the Valley”, “Lost in My Mind”, and “Rivers and Roads” -- all of which would be present for their live performance that night, much to the crowd’s harmonious reception. Who wouldn’t be present that night was obvious, though, with Johnson out of the picture for the band’s ongoing tour as he had checked himself into rehab prior to its beginnings. Especially after offering his voice to the new record, it was a legitimate item to wonder over with how the band, now one frontman short, would be able to handle themselves during this latest live showing.

Following what felt like a considerable wait -- though, one might concede that that could’ve easily been the hype talking -- Hurray for the Riff Raff came roaring into view with a stage presence engulfing typical perceptions of opener quality. Fronted by the stellar Alynda Lee Segarra, the New Orleans-originated quartet handily got the crowd whet and raucous for the long night of performances ahead with a set equal parts blues and folk, with some reefer rock and Appalachia tossed in for good measure. In particular, the sing-along “Blue Ridge Mountain” got people moving and grooving, but the band -- particularly Segarra, with her soaring vocals and crystalline tone not unakin to that of fellow Americana sister Brandi Carlile -- did their thing and made it look easily while doing so.

A 20-minute wait for the sake of bringing the headliner’s instruments and hookups into play and we out in the crowd were golden, ready for what was to come and hoping that it would be top-notch. Luckily, despite the physical lack of Johnson during this particular show or this particular tour, Russell, Charity Thielen, and the rest of their ensemble more than picked up the slack in his absence, making sure to retain both the Head and the Heart with an admirable collective of adaptations made that felt nothing like compromise. Unfortunately, one particular problem with sound and how it was mixed with their keyboard synthesizer honestly made a song that could actually be quite the banger come across as obnoxious and shrill (“Turn It Around”), but that’s neither here nor there in the overall reception that came with their otherwise fantastic performance.

The literal “Signs of Light” lit up and they were a-go immediately with a rousing rendition of Jon’s “All We Ever Knew”, which transitioned seamlessly into follow-up track “City Lights”, and while they came in to a warm reception, it was still in the band’s less pop-oriented roots tracks that they deservedly received the greatest positive reactions. Chiming in with “Lost in My Mind” first and foremost, the entire audience erupted into a storm of applause and whistling before standing up and singing along in a surprisingly in-tune fashion.

This continued for most of the night, with notable highlights of a communal vibe being particularly accentuated in the aforementioned trio from a few paragraphs up, with the incredibly generous band giving us not one or two, but three songs in their encore. Charity wrapped things up nicely in a bow as she stretched her vocals with a passion and gusto that makes it obvious why she’s such a fan favorite on “Rivers and Roads” before closing out the night as not a face in sight wasn’t singing along to its rising chorus. Other highlights included a performance from Jon and Charity on the title song from their sophomore release, Let’s Be Still, the delectable harmonies of the serene “Library Magic” from off of their latest, and a markedly dark performance of “Ghosts” from off of their first.

A band like The Head and the Heart joins people together with their tight harmonies and sweeping choruses and manages to make it look easy. Even in the face of such an established member like Josiah Johnson not being present for the show, the band still know that their greatest asset is the strength of the communities that they harvest in a room -- no matter how big or small -- when they perform. Doing so, in reality, is no easy feat, but with seasoned professionalism and a genuine affection for their fans, they seem to be doing pretty alright for themselves. Our best wishes are with Josiah, who couldn’t be there in person but most certainly was in the spirit of that evening as his bandmates rocked the night.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.