Life in Music inspired by Joe Henry

dinsdag 21 april 2020

The concert that didn't happen (but maybe it did...?)

Hello Everyone,
Enjoying a nice glass of wine here, enjoying that beautiful full moon. But it’s time to go.

 I put down my glass and make my way out. While crossing; I take one last look at the moon, and then I enter the theater….

When I find my seat, all there is left to do, is waiting for the fading out of the houselights. On stage we already get a preview of what’s to come. There is a microphone in the middle and an empty barseat behind it, accompanied by an equally empty guitarstand. A little off-center a concertpiano is quietly waiting.

Ah, it’s time to begin….

Joe walked on stage with his guitar. He sat down, said good evening to us all and played ‘Salt and Sugar’ as an opener. When he was done, the audience embraced him with so much warmth ! Without saying something we all knew the circumstances on how this song, and his latest album, came to be. It was as if we finally could stop holding our breath. There he was, we had missed him, and kept him in our hearts all this time. There he was…
Joe looked at all of us, and made a little bow.  “ Thank you, I’m even more happy to be back here than ever.” As if he knew what we all were thinking.
‘Bloom’, ‘Orson Welles’ and ‘General Tzu Names The Planets For His Children’ from his latest album followed, with that last one a first highlight of the evening. Wow! Goosebumps, and we are only 4 songs in…. What treats will there be for us the rest of the evening ? 

He moved over to the piano, and first brought us ‘Tomorrow is October’ followed by ‘God Only Knows’. 2 songs that keep standing the test of time, and we will receive more of those further on the evening. Joe kept on moving over the keys, and slowly he turned in to a Jazzclub pianist. His fiddling on the keys referred to Dave Brubeck by shifting into the intro of ‘Strange Meadow Lark’. In the meantime, he told us a story:

You know, when I was kid, I was completely intrigued by Casablanca, the Movie I mean. I was intrigued by the entire atmosphere of it. I wanted to be in Casablanca, not the real one, I didn’t know that off course, No I wanted to be in THAT Casablanca, the only one I knew.
I remember myself hanging over the kitchen table, with my glass of soda water saying : “Off all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks in to mine.” (laughter in the audience) Or, sometimes when I was up in my room I’d say to a wooden puppet on the windowsill: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship….."

And sometimes I sat at the piano, and said to myself : “play it joe, Play ‘As time goes by’."

And then he did. He gave us a wonderful rendition of that classic written by Herman Hupfeld.

Leaving the Piano, Joe suddenly said: ”Please Welcome on Stage  : Mr JT Nero and Allison Russell of Birds of Chicago!"  Wait!? Did he really say that ?  I knew the answer when they, indeed, walked on stage. What a wonderful surprise ! 
We first got the wonderful ‘In time for Tomorrow’. The more I hear it, the more I find it one of the most beautiful songs Joe has ever written. Especially if you have JT and Alli backing up ! They received a well-deserved warm applause for that.

“I don’t know if you know this”, said Joe, “but they can make music that completely grabs me. If you don’t, I’m maybe a bit jealous for the experience of what you are about to discover”. In which we first heard their ‘Barley’, with the amazing voice of Allison in a lead role, and as last song before the intermission ‘American Flowers’. 
Slowly the curtains closed. Time to get a drink.

When the curtains opened again, there was another surprise for us. We now saw the setup for an entire band. While this sank in, they walked on stage : Jay Bellerose (Drums), David Piltch (Upright Bass), Patrick Warren (Piano) followed by JT Nero (guitar) and Allison Russell(Clarinet, backing vocals, small percussion,…).

“Say hello, to these fine crazy people with me !” They started with ‘Shook up the World’, a song Joe wrote in memory of Muhammed Ali. This followed by ‘Trampoline’.
Slowly the intensity build up, from ‘River floor’, over ‘Death to the storm’, to an impressive ‘The dark is light enough’. 
We could take back our breath with ‘Mule’, ‘The man I keep hid’ and ‘the Gospel according to water’. Just enough to go all the way through the roof with ‘Monkey’, ‘Time is a lion’, ‘Odetta’ and ‘Like She was Hammer’.
"We’ve got one more song for you ":  ‘Eyes out for you’.
We all needed to release tension and gave them a standing ovation!

As a first encore, Joe alone walked over to the piano and played ‘You can’t fail me now’. After that:  Birds of Chicago walked back on stage, and the 3 of them sang as a Gospel, ‘These Days’ by Jackson Brown.
For the last 2 songs, the band came back on stage.

"2 Weeks ago we had to say goodbye to John Prine. Although it was not unexpected, the loss of such mountain hit us hard. He came with a writing voice full-formed and perfectly tuned to his tremulous times; and it has grown deeper and more expressive with years because he had been willing to see us all with an eye as compassionate as it was unflinching. His gentle acknowledgment of our desires and failures was affirming, and made buoyant by forgiveness. Against many odds, we are thus nourished and persuaded to press on — and encouraged to just maybe forgive ourselves too as we go. This is Stormy Windows…"(1)

…And after that, there was only one more. To end the night they performed ‘lead me on’ from Joe’s album ‘Invisible Hour’.

But it was not the end…. We stood up, and just kept on clapping, until finally Joe walked back on stage on his own.

“Thank you all, this is not even a little bit overwhelming. But it is time to lay the evening to rest.
So with this song, I wish you all a good homecoming, and I hope to see you soon. “

The end was for his version of ‘Hobo’s Lullaby’ from his ‘Shine a light’ album with Billy Bragg.

It was indeed, also for us, not even a little bit an overwhelming concert. Thank you for this.

When I walked out of the theater I took one more look at the moon,
… I raise my glass to it…. and said  “That could have been quiet an evening.”
Slowly I start to clean up the table in the garden, and in the end, just before I blow out the last candle I say : “Here’s looking at you kid!”.

Much Love,

ull setlist :
Salt and Sugar – Bloom – General Tzu…. – Orson Welles – Tomorrow is October – God Only knows – As Time goes by (Herman Hupfeld) – In time for Tomorrow – Barley (Birds of Chicago) – American Flowers (BOC)


With band : Shook up the world – Trampoline – River Floor – Death to the Storm – Dark is light Enough – Mule – The man I keep hid – The Gospel according to Water –Monkey – Time is a lion – Odetta –Like She was a hammer – Eyes out for you

Encore 1 : You can’t fail me now (solo) – These Days (Jackson Brown) (With BOC) – Stormy Windows (John prine) (Full Band) – Lead me on (Full Band)

Encore 2 : Hobo’s Lullaby


zaterdag 18 april 2020

How the 'Birds of Chicago' concert could have sounded...

April 18, 2020

Witthout the pandemic; me, my wife and kids would be enjoying A 'Birds of Chicago' Concert, right now !

It would have been a wonderful evening. (Don't worry, it still is a wonderful evening, but we are just at home.)

In my imagination, this is the setlist we would have heard tonight live. (The last song sung by (off course) Allison Russell.


zondag 29 maart 2020

Behind the scenes of Heath Cullen's upcoming album

Heath Cullen has released a trailer for his upcoming album. The album will be released on April 17. (2 weeks later then earlier mentioned).
Besides producing, we find out that Joe also has written the lyrics for Song that I know on this album.

It was also Joe's first active producing session after the cancerdiagnosis. Like he says himself in the clip : "When you see Heath Cullen, thank him!"

Anyway; I ordered my copy, now it's up to you !

And have you heard Heath's version of Time is a Lion  ?

vrijdag 27 maart 2020

Touring update

Joe's website has posted the updates concerning his tour.

  • The U.S. dates are rescheduled for July and August. 


I must admit, seeing the evolution over here in Belgium, I find those dates optimistic. I hope, with you, that by then we all can have a little more 'normal' life.

  • The European tour has been cancelled.

Statement on the official website concerning the European tour :
It will come as no surprise that Joe’s planned European tour dates have all been cancelled. We will be attempting to reschedule as many as we can, but it’s unclear at this point when that will be possible. Stay tuned. And stay safe. 

  • And also Nowhere Else Fest has been cancelled for this year. 

Take care out there...
Take care of Each Other
With Love,

zaterdag 21 maart 2020

Our lives since 10 days

10 days in....
10 days ago life changed....
10 days ago......

Let me first say that me and my family are all in good health, and the following may seem not of the most importance,  but we are financially stable. (for a lot of people here it can become a drama.)

A Pandemic is visiting human kind, and in a way it is showing us what really is the most important thing : 'Taking care of eachother' (I mostly prefer to write each other, because it displays more what I mean). Taking care of each other, in all means possible.

Let me first open up on what I actually do for a living.
My professional life exists out of 2 elements.  I work in the pre-production fase of the entertainement sector. Our jobs consist f.e. of the huge Arenaproductions and big summerfestivals... I make technical designs, and do calculations on structures that need to be hung and placed in such enviroments. We want them to keep hanging and standing off course.
Besides that, I teach the upcoming generation in this field. It's a 2 year course in the senior years of Highschool. When my students finished their course (if all goes well at the age of 18), they can either go to work, or decide to specialise them by a bachelor or master education.

10 Days ago our Governement took their first measures concerning the Corona-pandemic. (They have been sharpened in the mean time). 1 of the measures back then, was that events with crowds bigger then 999 people were forbidden....
Well, you can imagine the problem that creates for the specific company I work for.  Let me say it blunt : within 24 hours the orderbook was empty. Not only in Belgium, but in all of Europe pressure was on, and they all shut down. Within 24 hours I was technically unemployed in this area. Within 48 hours our entire stage-art world pauzed. (theater, dance, musical, exhibitions, concerts,.... ) An entire industry stopped.

The next day it was decided that schools were to be closed.....
It doesn't imply that there are no courses anymore, we are just not allowed to sit together in a room. The building is empty, but we keep on teaching. It works ! Using livestream, chats and videochats I am teaching. At the hours we normally have lessons, me and my students sit behind our computers at home and learn. It is of course impossible to keep on doing this forever. Today, it is only 2 weeks until the Easterholiday. up to then we can do this. I hope it will be possible to meet my students again in real life after that. Not only for the quality of their learningprocess, but because I care for them....

In the meantime, off course, my 2 children are at home, but also my wife has to work from home. So here we are, together at home, and instructed to keep within our 'familybubble' and not seek contact with others. So we can go outside, but stay among our verry close circle, even if we take a walk in the neighbourhood and in the park. It is advised to restrict other contact to the absolute necessary : groceries, doctors, pharmacists. (All the other stores are closed anyway). Luckily for my family it is only groceries for us.

I believe these measures are necessary. Currently in Belgium the official amount of infections is 2815 (Who knows how many are not tested?). we have 1089 patients in the hospital, 238 people are in intensive care, 167 people are on a respirationmachine. 67 people have died in the meantime. 58 people are cured and left the hospital.  For now our hospitals can cope.
(Our country is around 30.500km2 and we live here with approx. 11,5 Milj. people.)

We need to control this virus, and keep it from spreading. Especially for the vulnerable people. My children will be fine, me and my wife will probably be fine, but our parents, and people with health issues are not. That is one reason for this social distancing, but there is also a practical side. We need a healthcare system that can deal with this,... and then we end up with the already famous Graphic. We need to slow down the virus... To describe it more visually : We don't need more people going to the hospital then the hospital can cope with. Thanks to these measures, so far, our country can cope.  Unfortunatly Italy's and Spain's system is slowly collapsing....

So now, here we are at home. We notice suddenly that it is possible to perform our basic daily duties, and at the same time spend time with the family, but also give eachother enough space like everyone needs now and then. Off course we miss social contact. We miss our friends, Going to restaurants. I miss having a beer with friends, seeing concerts and shows. But it is the situation today. Our children don't have their weekly boyscout-meetings, so we're doing that at home. We are playing games, reading books, watching movies and series. We are performing music, listening to music, and starting personal projects we've put on the shelf for so long.

The 1 big side effect is the hoarding of food and (mainly) toiletpaper. I don't get it. We all receive pictures, videos, advise from stores,... on how our warehouses are filled. There is no problem. The reason that shelfs are empty is the fact that staff can't keep up with filling them in the store. I went to the store yesterday, and the shell for toiletpaper was completely empty. I don't get that, we are a week in... How much toiletpaper do you need ?

Helas it has the effect that people working in hospitals, go to the store at the end of the day and don't find enough suply for themselfs. The people who earn it much more than I do(and many others), I believe. They are currently our heroes. 

We thank and support every nurse, doctor and staff.  They are working the hardest these days. Nationally we applaud out of the window everyday from our house, and my wife is sewing mouthmasks for the staff of a retirement home in the neighbourhood.

It works, ... so far.
Today is World Syndrom day where we pay extra attention to people with down syndrom, by putting on different socks.

Take care of yourself,
Take care of each other
Much Love,
Stefan and family.

maandag 16 maart 2020

A playlist of Joe's work

Hello Everyone out there,

(I assume like a lot of people,) I find myself at home with much more time on hand then I'm used to.

Anyway, It gave me some time to prepare something I wanted to do for a long time, and at the same time, it will give you 6+ hours of listening pleasure.

I've made a playlist,... a totally incomplete, but still impressive list spanning Joe's entire career. You'll find a unique mixture of songs, with 1 thing in common. Joe Henry was involved in it.

Now that it is made, I'll keep on adding songs to it as they come.

Enjoy the listen,
and take care of yourselfs and others.