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“The sun still rises even through the rain”
A 40 minute rain delay set the stage for an ideal summer night to see The Head and The Heart play beneath a full moon at the awe inspiring Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO. The tale of their beginning traces back to an Irish pub open mic in Seattle, a bit of a smaller stage when compared to that of the spiraling castle watchtowers of Starlight that support the stage along with the soulfully stomping and bellowing performers that crowded it that night. Touring in support of their 3rd full length and inching closer to finishing their 4th, this company of musicians captivated the crowd as they weaved through their 15 song set full of energy, reflection, and connection with those around us.
“This next song sounds so much better with a lot of people singing it with us”
From the start of the quick hitting “Cats and Dogs” into the rip-roar of “Couer d’Alene”, it was hard to find someone seated. Most of the concert I stood surrounded by strangers but still near friends, new and old, as we saw The Head and The Heart’s growing sound move people into the aisles, spinning and jumping in delight to spirited songs like “City of Angels” & “Ghosts”. The band continued to conjure feelings of connection to them as well as those surrounding strangers, as we all echoed their ballads “Another Story” & “Homecoming Heroes” as if we were suddenly seated around a campfire. The crescendo built into one of their most cathartic and euphoric songs, “Lost in My Mind” that serves as a personal favorite every time I have been lucky enough to see them play.
A quick aside on that experience, only fitting I speak on the first time I saw The Head and The Heart perform that song since they mentioned the first time they played in KC at the (old) recordBar in 2011 described affectionately as being in ‘a strip mall’. Nearly 5 years ago, it was “Lost In My Mind” that served as the “song that changed my life”, a term I use often coined by Bob Boilen. I was fresh into my 4th month of post graduate life, and had recently started seeing a therapist for some bubbling anxiety that seemed to envelop my mind with the new responsibilities of adult life. I was searching for some relief and answers when I saw them play that fateful night and howling the chorus of the the therapeutic and cathartic swan song shot the airs up my arms prompting a euphoria of weightlessness. I felt as if I was not alone in all of this and a thousand or so others who felt the way I did. No longer complete strangers we became a choir and the venue became our home. This most recent time those feelings rose back up in me as a chorus of voices sang “You’re already home when you feel loved”
Slowing down the tempo to recoup our vocal chords, the spotlight went to Jonathan Russell (guitars/vocals) as he sang the blues during “Oh My Dear” only to rise the crowd to their feet once more as the band joined in on the upbeat “I Don’t Mind” and closing out with another staple of the band, “Down In The Valley”. After their initial set, the responsorial roar of the crowd provoked the band’s return to the stage with even more gifts. A 4 song encore that featured 2 songs that “have never been played outside those 4 walls” of their recording studio home. The first, “Backwards Breathing” felt like it had the potential to add to the laundry list be another crowd favorite ‘you know it feels like nobody has your back, I hope you find your way back to me’ along with “Living Mirage”. At one point, a fan voiced their request of one of their aforementioned fan favorites, to which the unmistakable voice of vocalist/violinist Charity Rose Thielen gracefully responded “we’re gonna get to that song, I promise you” following up with one more bit of guidance.
“Take a moment to be present and thankful”
Being present is easier said than done. You can’t help being transfixed by your own nostalgia during the group’s closing number “Rivers and Roads”. Whether you’ve heard it before or played it 1000 times thinking of the friends the double that number of miles away, it seems to invoke an emotion unlike one I’ve seen elsewhere. It serves as a metaphor for their long lasting impact you’ll be reminded of when you’re driving on a winding road with the windows down, catching up with long distance friends over the phone, and the next time you get to see The Head and The Heart as you might shout for them to play it so you can get that feeling again.