A blog for Joe Henry fans

woensdag 11 juni 2014

A 2 day Joe Henry trip

"Joe, you bring comfort to your listeners. It is a rare gift....."

Now that I’ve written it, these musings have become a longer writing then I’d imagined up front.

I went to see Joe play in Amsterdam and Gent. 
It started with Joe’s little set in concerto record store. (He played together with Levon). Man it was hot. Sweat was floating on everyone’s forehead. You wiped it away, but a second later you were all sweaty again. And we were just standing and listening, what it most of been to play music….
Afterwards he did a signing session, which gave me the opportunity to present myself. So that he can put a face, a person on this virtual place I have over here. It was nice meeting you Joe and Levon. Thank you again. 

After dinner came the first concert of 2 I would see. It were two similar sets, but for me a different experience. That is the beautiful power of ‘Live music’. There are so many aspects that can make differences at a concert. For, or by every participant : whether it is artist, audience or co-worker.  
 People’s place Amsterdam and Handelsbeurs Gent are 2 totally different spaces, which give you different acoustics. Amsterdam was in a ‘club’ like room, while Gent was in a bigger room. There were songs that worked better for me at 1 concert then at the other or vice versa. But that’s a very personal thing, and it is different for every listener. 
From opening song 'Odetta' on you can do nothing else then listen to this wonderful voice, and the equaly nice guitar playing. You just look and see the emotion Joe puts in bringing these songs, how he plays guitar and treats it not merely as an object, but as another friend or musician on stage. 
@people's place Amsterdam

After a couple of songs His son Levon joins him on stage to back him up with either saxophone or Clarinet. Although backing up is not the correct expression. Because without him, we would have heard totally different songs. No, we are watching here at a father and son bringing us together the most wonderful music. And so the concert switches between Joe Solo, and in duet with his son. 
@ concerto instore
In my album review I already pointed out the importance of Levon on this album, it is not different live. He brings that extra layer in the music that again lifts it up. Sometimes way up front there, sometimes as subtle to not notice it, but probably would miss it, if he didn’t play. Friends in Gent explained it as if he was gently whispering with his playing. They never heard anyone play reeds like that. They were full of amazement for him.
He was more up front for example during ‘the man I keep hid’. This is absolutely a wonderful rendition we heard of this song. Just for that one I would keep returning I think. Absolutely amazing. It felt like Henry Mancini was in the room, and we were in New Orleans. It blew me away what they did with this song.
Also when Joe and Levon do an instrumental part together, it is fascinating to see Joe handle his guitar. How he moves it back and forth from the microphone and manages his volume in the balance with Levon, without anyone touching faders on a soundboard. Such awareness of working with microphones is a rare talent. Amazing!

To quote a friend of mine in Gent: “What one man can do with a voice, a guitar and a piano!
We talked about that after concert. You don’t see that a lot anymore. An artist who just performs with an acoustic guitar, works with it, tunes it between songs and brings us the most amazing music.
And yes, there were also songs where Joe sat at the piano. It was with ‘God only knows’ or ‘Our song’ from Civilians that the emotional strength of Joe’s work became undeniable. I looked around in the audience at that moment and you could see almost everyone a bit in prayer. Those songs addressed to the deepest emotions of every particular listener. Joe, you bring comfort to your listeners. It is a rare gift.
The most beautiful thing I saw was a woman around I think 70 Years old.   She was standing in Amsterdam right in front of Joe. She had an arm of someone else on her shoulder, a woman around 50 (in my imagination her daughter). That little image of those 2 people, in their happy moment will stick with me forever. It told me that life IS beautiful. 

The 2 encores gave us the (again) great playing together in ‘Slide’, and the powerful ‘kindness of the world’.
They are now traveling to the north of Europe for the last steps in this European tour. I wish them good luck. And most importantly: “Enjoy yourself”.

P.S. : Before I left for Gent I needed to drop my kids of at my wife’s parents. When I came in I noticed ‘Trans-atlantic’ by Colum Mccann on the table. When my father-in-law noticed my smile, I explained the coincidence. “Wow” he said, “and this Joe worked together with Column McCann ? Respect, because Colum McCann is a great writer”.......

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