JoAnna James says hello, Wars of 1812 say goodbye at the Cedar

Categories: Concert Review
joannajamesbykiiarens.jpg
Photo by Kii Arens
As was to be expected, Friday night's show at the Cedar Cultural Center was bittersweet. It was one of the first hometown shows for Minnesota native-turned-LA resident JoAnna James, and was the last show, hometown or otherwise, for the fractured Wars of 1812. While Chris Koza's name was at the top of the bill for the evening, it was clear that a large portion of the audience had come to see the momentous sets by his two talented openers.

JoAnna James was visibly nervous during her set, giggling between songs as she paused to shake out her limbs and tell half-conceived stories that meandered into fits of giggles. She was joined by guitarist Josh Peterson, who accompanied her acoustic guitar strums with bluesy electric guitar riffs and solos, and the two played off of each other effortlessly. James mixed in a few new songs throughout her set, and the new material showed off a more subtle, soft side to her sultry, powerful voice, including a syncopated, homesick song about her recent move simply titled "St. Paul."

As with most JoAnna James sets, however, the highlight came when she really let loose during the climax of an old favorite, "Molasses," which found her pushing her voice to its limits and holding out a high note for a seemingly impossible length of time.


With the crowd still stunned, James invited Koza to the stage to join her on a duet of Lucinda Williams' "I Envy the Wind," reigning things back in to a more subdued tone for the remainder of her set.

By the time the Wars of 1812 were ready to play the room had filled to capacity, and the energy changed dramatically when they approached the stage. Lead singer Peter Pisano started off the set by stating that they had enough new material to record another whole album, and that they would devote their entire performance to songs off the forthcoming record, which will be released posthumously. The band then preceded to play an hour's worth of the best and most technically complex music I had ever heard from them, making the idea that this group is disbanding seem more and more cruel with each new and remarkably well-written tune.

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