Jeremy Messersmith at First Avenue, 2/22/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Erik Hess

Jeremy Messersmith
With Carroll
First Avenue, Minneapolis
February 22, 2014

Jeremy Messersmith's grandiose Heart Murmurs record release show at First Avenue is something he's been building towards for his whole creative life. The Minneapolis transplant's modest, acoustic-driven early work hinted at a scope and scale far larger, but his recent material demands a bigger stage. Messersmith got that and then some at his sold-out homecoming show on Saturday night. His 10-piece backing band -- including the Laurels String Quartet -- gave vibrant life to a career-spanning, 95-minute set showcasing his songwriting gifts.

See Also: Slideshow: Jeremy Messersmith at First Avenue, 2/22/14

Under a metallic heart backdrop reminiscent of the new album cover, Messersmith took to the stage with guitarists Peter Sieve and Brian Tighe, bassist Ian Allison, drummer Andy Thompson, keyboardist Sarah Perbix, percussionist Alex Young, along with the Laurels on strings. Jeremy eased into the show with a hushed, acoustic new song tentatively titled, "I Don't Trust That Boy."

The recognizable strains of Jeremy's Heart Murmurs single, "Tourniquet," instantly got the audience fully into it, and sounded massive in the Mainroom. "Knots" and "Dillinger Eyes" kept the strong start going, with the backing band adding lively layers to both. Throughout, the string section added an aching sentimentality to songs that were already steeped in emotion.

"This is a trip," he said early in the set. "I'm not going to lie, this is pretty freaking awesome." The well-paced set was a fluent blend of sprawling full band arrangements and more refined, tranquil moments where Messersmith carried the songs with his muted acoustic guitar strains and resonant vocals.

Photos By Erik Hess

A three-song run halfway through the show highlighted Messersmith's more austere material, as he delivered touching renditions of "I Want to Be Your One Night Stand," "Steve," and a stunning cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend," all augmented by the string quartet and the pastel contributions of Sieve and Perbix. The rest of the band took to the stage as "Novocain" blossomed majestically.

"Well, that was off of my first record from a long time ago," Messersmith said wistfully after the cheers for "Novocain" died down. "And this is from my second album, also from a long time ago." With that, the band delivered a reflective, poignant take on "Welcome to Suburbia." "It's Only Dancing" quickly followed, with Messersmith introducing the towering new number by mentioning how he was playing the first songs on each of his albums in a row during the set, giving fans a glimpse of not only how his material has evolved over the years, but also how good his songs were straight from the start.

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