The Head and The Heart Razzle and Dazzle The Tabernacle
There may have been near-freezing temperatures looming over Atlanta on Sunday night, but you wouldn't have been able to tell if you were one of the many in attendance at The Head and The Heart's Tabernacle set. Being a sold-out show, the entire venue was filled with men and women of all ages being treated to the band's heartwarming and soulful two-hour set. Hailing from Seattle, The Head and The Heart have managed to rack up an impressive fan following in their relatively short seven-year career, playing at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in 2014 and performing for a massive crowd at last year's Shaky Knees.
Before I get into the actual show, it's important to note how cool their stage setup was. With a teal curtain draping the background, potted plants, a shining marquee sign hanging up that read "Signs of Light," and dynamic lights that were constantly changing, giving every moment of the show a unique feel. These guys spent a lot of time crafting the aesthetic and presentation of their performances.
Sporting a six-piece ensemble, four of which switch around multiple instruments on nearly every song, their showmanship and craft are apparent from the very beginning. Lead vocalist and primary songwriter Jonathan Russell possesses an aura of confidence as he leads his fellow bandmates through the breezy Americana styles of songs like "All We Ever Knew," and "City of Angels," both of which come from last year's Signs of Light album.
It's blast watching the stage antics of guitarist and additional vocalist Matt Gervais. Having replaced former member Josiah Johnson (currently on hiatus) just last year, it's impressive how quickly he adapted to every one of the band's songs, never skipping a beat during the set and enjoying every minute with a huge smile on his face. As pianist Kenny Hensley gently opens the song "Another Story," the dynamic range of the band's songwriting is made apparent. A soft and moving ballad about freeing yourself from depression, The Head and The Heart showcase their maturity as songwriters while knowing how to have fun, too.
And what fun it is watching violinist Charity Rose Thielen bowing away while providing occasional vocal lines, as was the case with "Let's Be Still." A sweet and tender ballad that really got the crowd's attention, it was a shining example of the individual talents of everyone on stage and their respective instruments, and was the highlight of the night for me, personally.
Bassist Chris Zasche may have been in the background for much of the night, but his presence was definitely felt with each buttery bassline that he played, really giving each song a nice little kick to it, no matter how soft it might sound on the record. The same could be said for drummer Tyler Williams, who showed a ton of enthusiasm and charming interplay with the rest of the band, as well as dynamically changing up playstyles depending on the song, such as playing with only one drumstick and a maraca during "Lost in My Mind," an endearing cut from their debut self-titled album, released on legendary record label Sub Pop.
Before the band gears up for their performance of "Winter Song," Kenny Hensley brings out an acoustic guitar as they serenade the audience with pleasant vocal trade-offs between Jonathan and Charity. With graceful finesse, they adorn their fans with a number of exquisite songs from their catalog including "Sounds Like Hallelujah" and "Down in the Valley" before briefly leaving the stage and coming back for a five-song encore.
When Matt Gervais mentions to the crowd that it is going to be singer Jonathan's birthday tomorrow, the crowd breaks into an impromptu Happy Birthday song, another one of the many delightful moments of the night. As the last show of their current run of dates, the band frequently makes note of how grateful they are to be in Atlanta alongside thei large number of adoring fans. I'm consistently impressed with how they're able to bring together such an extensive and diverse group of people together for a concert experience that is equal parts intimate and extravagant.
As the show nears its conclusion, The Head and The Heart brings out the big guns with a performance of their 2013 hit "Shake." It's a rocking and catchy number that emphasizes the band's energetic prowess, getting the crowd dancing along before they cap the show off with their bittersweet 2011 acoustic anthem "Rivers and Roads." It's a satisfying culmination of the two-hour exhibition of songwriting and musical expertise they showed off throughout the night.
If you came into the Tabernacle on Sunday night completely unaware of the band or their music, you likely left with as much satisfaction as the many people who have been following them from the beginning, which is a very high honor for The Head and The Heart to carry.
Photos by Sidney Spear for Bullet Music