The Jayhawks at First Avenue: Set lists and photos

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Steve Cohen
Transcendence. It's a word that gets bandied about in so many music reviews, a rock-crit cliche (on par with "soaring vocal melodies" and "haunting" and the like) that seems to have lost all meaning. But sometimes, god help us, it's the only word that fits.

Because, every once in a while, there happens to be a show that is so celebratory and flat-out joyful that it pushes you into outer space and back. The kind of show of such magnitidue and importance, personal, professional, and otherwise, that you can't help but stand there and grin like a little kid on a pixie stick buzz, jump up and down when they play your favorite song, and act totally, embarrassingly ecstatic over something as simple as a rock 'n' roll show.

I'd add the disclaimer here that I'm just speaking for myself, but looking around the Mainroom at Sunday night's Jayhawks show, it was clear that the feeling was mutual. Here's another cliche for you -- the room was buzzing, god dammit. There was a long pause between the opening set by StrangeLights and the time the screen came up for the Jayhawks, and in that time the anticipation had become nearly unbearable. What songs would they play? Did anyone see the set list from last night? WHAT SONGS WILL THEY PLAY?

And then, the curtain rose, and there they were, playing "People in This Place on Every Side" with all the triumph of Olympic champions doing a victory lap around their home field, then "Up Above My Head," "Red's Song," and, oh my god, is that "Real Light"? Yes, It's "Real Light"!

I stood in a pocket of friends, all equally enamored with the band, and we raised our eyebrows and squealed at the start of every song. They could have played any song they wanted, because in this setting they all sounded poignant and well-worn and true.

Photos by Steve Cohen
The band had started rehearsing together last Thursday and then began an onslaught of gigs: A warm-up run Friday along with a taping at the Current and an in-store at the Fetus, and shows in the Mainroom on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night. By Sunday night, they had hit a magnificent stride, as if Olson and Louris had never stopped playing in the band together and they were simply returning home from their most recent tour.

Of course, that isn't true, and the band's story of evolution and reunion is almost as romantic as the set of songs they played off of Tomorrow the Green Grass, the last album this particular quintet recorded together and some of their greatest work under the Jayhawks moniker. "Blue," their most famous song, has become all the more poetic at these reunion shows, and it's hard to avoid a lump in one's throat when Olson turns to Louris and they both sing, "Never thought that I'd miss you, that I'd miss you so much."

Even after a lengthy set and encore, I turned around to my nerd friends and sighed. "I wish they could play forever," I joked. I still sort of wish that they could.

Personal Bias:
The Crowd: A good mix, but skewed toward middle-aged people grinning like fiends.
Random Notebook Dump: Though I missed Monday night's show, I was told that the highlight came when original drummer Norm Rogers joined the band for two songs off the "Bunkhouse" album.
For more photos: See Steve Cohen's slideshow.
For set lists from all three nights: See page 2 of this review.

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