The Head and The Heart in Portland

Matthew Shelter on March 20, 2012

The Head and The Heart
State Theatre
Portland, ME
March 16

The experience of seeing The Head and The Heart in concert is a bit like listening to one of their songs: the show starts off all sweet and easy, then builds and builds and builds to a joyful, cathartic crescendo – well, maybe a couple of crescendos. The six-member indie band out of Seattle graced the stage of the State Theatre in Portland, Maine last Friday for an 80-minute set that showed why they are building such a rapt following for their live performances.

The start of The Head and The Heart’s set was delayed because of technical difficulties until well past 10 pm, but the band had the sell-out crowd of 1,600+ in the palm of their hands from the first notes of show opener “Cats and Dogs.” The band moved through all 10 tracks from their debut album (2011’s The Head and The Heart ) over the course of the evening, and threw in a handful of new tunes to boot.

It takes all six members of the group to weave the distinctive sound The Head and The Heart is after, with its equal parts Americana, folk and country-rock. At its core, it is the melding of a trio of voices – guitarists Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson and violinist Charity Rose Thielen – that gives the group its distinctive sound. This is not to slight the other band members, for in concert, the rhythm section of Tyler Williams on drums and Chris Zasche on bass drive the songs forward with a percussive beat that is nigh impossible not to stomp one’s feet to, and Kenny Hensley’s piano rises to sparkling prominence on songs like “Coeur d’Alene” and “Ghosts.” But it is those three voices that still echo in the mind days after the show, and it is remarkable how versatile they are – especially Russell and Johnson, who traded off leads throughout the night.

The ensemble dazzled on some of the signature songs from The Head and The Heart, including “Lost In My Mind” (during which they were joined on stage by the collected members of both opening acts – Black Girls, and Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives), set closer “Rivers and Roads,” and encore “Down In The Valley.” The harmony of Russell, Johnson and Thielen, combined Hensley’s piano, made “Heaven Go Easy On Me” another highlight of the evening.

The indie-rock world eagerly awaits the sophomore album from this very enchanting sextet.