The Belly Up has long been a favorite venue for the band from Minnesota. They have landed here in various incarnations over the years, including one gig that was billed simply as Mark Olson & Gary Louris. That show, in 2006, was part of the relatively brief reunion of the two founding members.
The Jayhawks released a live digital album recorded at the Belly Up last year.
At the latest Belly Up show, Louris pointed to a place by the side of the stage where he was accustomed to seeing the same fan over the years. Louis later brought up onstage his Doppleganger, a guy Louris said looked like him a decade or two earlier.
The current incarnation of the Jayhawks, which has been essentially intact for several years, includes Louris (guitars), Karen Grotberg (keyboards), Tim O’Reagan (drums) and Marc Perlman, who has been playing bass since the group was founded. Jeff Lyster is also on tour with the band, adding guitar and pedal steel stylings to the mix.
They opened with a sure crowd pleaser “Waiting for the Sun” and several songs later followed up with “Lovers of the Sun.” Although he never mentioned the infamous chilly weather of his home, Louris did acknowledge that the band enjoyed some beach time earlier in the day.
Several tracks from the new album Paging Mr. Proust were introduced, the best of which was “Pretty Roses in Your Hair.”
The guitar interplay of Louris and Lyster created some great aural fireworks. Without any obvious acknowledgement, in the midst of a sonic flight they locked in and played twin guitar leads.
During the evening, Louris moved through an array of guitars, from acoustic to Flying V. Lyster’s work on the pedal steel added some plaintive tones to several songs. For several moments both guitarists were noodling with digital effects at their feet, volleying back and forth.
O’Reagan added an unexpected and accomplished tenor lead vocal on several songs from behind the drum kit, and was the band’s hidden asset in the vocal harmony department.
Late in the set and from early in their career, “I’d Run Away” was delivered with a galloping finish. Louris returned for a solo acoustic encore, which featured the lovely “Angelyne.”
I will put my hand up and vote with my dollars for another live recording from the Belly Up; the evening was filled with superb musicianship and a wide selection of songs (including a song spontaneously added to the setlist).
The Jayhawks remain one of the great American bands, consistently delivering solid music from the studio and the stage for over three decades. They will be on tour domestically through the end of the month and then in Europe for much of September (undoubtedly after recharging batteries in Minnesota during August).
Catch them if you can.
(photos by Brad Auerbach)