On the second leg of 2016-2017’s Signs of Light Tour, The Head and the Heart brought joy, passion, and soulful tunes to people of all ages in a sold-out show at Arlington Theatre. The Seattle-based group played songs on its most recent album (aptly named Signs of Light) and classics that made the group grow into the popularity and fame they have today, mostly earned with their self-titled debut album The Head and the Heart. I had very few reservations about the entire experience—the ambience was great, the music was lively, and the energy was on point. However, the one minor thing I found some fault with was the opening act.
Although Dreamers was lively and upbeat, I felt that they did not mesh well with the folksy tunes that The Head and the Heart had to offer. Most known for their rock roots, the trio Dreamers used heavy guitar accents that left the muddled vocals lost in translation, the complete opposite direction that The Head and the Heart intends to go.
The headliner, or Head and the Heart-liner if you will, does an excellent job balancing and complementing melodies with instrumentation and not overpowering one singular aspect of their sound. In the 2016 leg of the Signs of Light Tour, the band opened with The Tallest Man on Earth, an artist with an indie-folk style much more similar to the headliner. Nonetheless, the show was still one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended (recency bias notwithstanding).
The group opened with “All We Ever Know,” one of the more popular songs on its most recent album. This first song is a perfect example of how well the band’s chemistry and sounds work together as one. Even though they are down one man due to an undisclosed drug issue, they rallied to provide the same ethereal tunes that lifelong fans are accustomed to.
The now-lead-man, guitarist Jonathan Russell, is a charismatic character, carrying on cheerful banter with the crowd and showing gratitude for all the roaring cheers after each song, all while violinist Charity Rose Thielen lit up the microphone with her unique singing voice and passionate playing. Combine this with assistance from Kenny Hensley bouncing on the keyboard, Chris Zasche helping out on the bass guitar, Tyler Williams rocking the drums, and new member Matty Gervais (who is filling in for Josiah Johnson), a sort of jack of all instrumental trades, and you get the perfect recipe for genuine, intimate music.
The notable highlights of the concert included performances of “Lost in my Mind,” “Down in the Valley,” and “Rivers and Roads,” which was played as the closing song during the encore. “Lost in my Mind” was the first song that the entire crowd got behind, proudly singing every lyric verbatim. It was an impressive track since it featured their patented synchronized “oooh-ing.” To see and hear that live was a very special moment.
“Down in the Valley” is a personal favorite, as that tune got me interested in the band in the first place. The melancholy guitar chords in the beginning of the song set the mood, and the entire orchestral instrumentation creates a somber and sobering melody where every note struck and sung is deliberately performed to make up a masterpiece of a song.
And lastly, I don’t think I’ve heard a live version of a song performed with so much passion as I did with “Rivers and Roads.” That tune was the denouement of the entire set, and was fully rounded out by Thielen’s incredibly delicate voice contrasting with the raspier contrast of Russell’s vocals. Include the set decor and the well-timed lighting and you get a classic of a performance.
One thing that stood out to me throughout the show was that certain members of the band played different instruments throughout the hour-long set, displaying their versatility between vocals, guitar, piano, tambourine, and even shaker. Drummer Williams was even multitasking throughout a few songs, using his shaker as a drumstick, an interesting yet intuitive way to create such a unique sound.
It was a performance that I will likely look back on and consider one of the top live performances I have ever seen, heard, and experienced. The mixture of passion, intimacy and good, wholesome music will have fans clamoring for more in upcoming years.