Life in Music inspired by Joe Henry

dinsdag 6 februari 2018

Ancienne Belgique, Brussels February 5, 2018

Travelling through Europe, while there are temperatures way too low for my personal liking, Joe made his stop at Ancienne Belgique Brussels and warmed us all up again.  It was a small, but attentive crowd. The only one who wasn’t paying attention was a fly circling around Joe. “I don’t want to kill him in front of you, he could be this place’s mascot.”
Someone asked how he knew it was a ‘him’. “Women aren’t so mean” he replied. 

Although he is touring with a new album ‘Thrum’ in the window, he dug in his catalogue ranging all the way back to 'Short man’s room'. Apart from the Thrum songs, I have already heard him perform these songs before, but without exaggerating, never with this kind of energy. While I have these songs in my head with some softness, yesterday they seemed to be stripped from that particular element.

It was like each song wanted to tell us for itself: “Make no mistake: This is what I’m about !”
- "Don’t just love, but love with all you got !"
- "If you have to say goodbye, do it with every grain of emotion you have !"
- "If you want to seduce me, well then pull open the entire register !"

Introducing ‘Hungry’, Joe explained that we all must be Hungry in this world, and the way these songs where performed yesterday, was with an urgency, A hunger, I’ve never seen Joe do before. Even in his movements it seemed sometimes he was squeezing and shaking it all out of that guitar.

It was impossible not to be actively involved as a listener. During ‘Lead me on’ and ‘Sold’ I was so absorbed, I even forgot for a moment I was sitting in a physical space.

Perhaps some of you also missed exit turns once, when listening to music while driving a car...  In that case, you know what I mean.

Speaking of ‘Sold’ (which was next to ‘our song’ my highlight of the evening), the urgency that that performance had, is something I hope you can all witness someday. Being sold… no longer fighting, but accepting things, gives me (maybe you also) a strange mix of emotions ranging from fear of the unknown, helplessness, but also some kind of relief because you don't have to put a barrier anymore. It was all in there.

‘Our Song’, performed on Piano, was presented to us as his ‘personal state of the union’. I got the impression Joe constantly had the state of his country, and his personal dealing with it, in mind while singing it.

this was my country
This was my song
Somewhere in the middle there
Though it started badly and it's ending wrong

Well, this was God's country
This frightful and this angry land
But if it's his will, the worst of it might still
Somehow make me a better man

His Piano playing gave away the strength of emotions in there, and by times I was happy not to be one of the keys.  I’ve never heard him do it like that. It was an exciting experience to see and hear.

Joe, I even think you can go further in this. Insert a jazz-improvisation solo in it maybe. I can even picture you banging it at it’s climax, and then with a click just turn it down again. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to something like that.


Those of you interested in my musings on Thrum, read them over here. 

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