Vagabonds and Jayhawks: Gary Louris at High Noon Saloon

Gary Louris

Last Friday (May 21), former Jayhawks songwriter and midwestern treasure Gary Louris took the stage at the High Noon Saloon, topping off an evening of heartfelt, country-tinged song.  Elizabeth Maxwell was there to soak it all in and share her impressions.  Read on for a review of the evening and a free mp3 download.

My first pleasant surprise of the evening was Ben Kyle, frontman of Romantica.  A young father (his third child, a boy, was born at 4:30 a.m. the morning of his High Noon appearance), Kyle is originally from Belfast and more recently from Minneapolis; both places ring through in his music.

Kyle’s stage presence was simple and smooth in a confluence that created one of the most genuine performances I’ve ever seen live. His voice rang of artists like Ryan Adams and Ray LaMontagne and the light country influence he claims to have looked up to was there in both the sound and the flower attached to the headstock of his guitar.

Stripped down and solo, the Ben Kyle-Ryan Adams comparison is impossible to miss. His sound is the same sort of heart-wrenching beautiful that assures the audience that these songs are rooted in true emotion.  But above all, Kyle is a storyteller. Whether it’s the stories of mini vans and family between songs or the stories of Gram Parsons and war within the songs, he has a talent for tales and the audience at High Noon hung on his every word.

It would be hard to follow an opener as fantastic as Ben Kyle, but Gary Louris took the stage and delivered.  His set list was a sprawling portrayal of how far his music stretches: from the Jayhawks to Vagabonds (his most recent release) and other new songs as strong as any he has written.

He knows what songs people like to hear and, more importantly, he has fun playing them. Rainy Day Music (Jayhawks, 2003) was front and center last night with tunes like “Angelyne,” “Tailspin,” “All the Right Reasons,” “Save it for a Rainy Day,” and “Eyes of Sarah Jane.” And even though he thought the crowd was craving an electric guitar and a band behind him, the sound was just right with Louris: his acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Performing as a one-man-band this Friday in May, Louris did an excellent job carrying the Jayhawk’s torch.

Though not necessarily in the starring role, Vagabonds still had its place in last night’s show. “D.C. Blues” showed up early and “True Blue” helped wind the show down towards the end.

As the show went on, the mention of people Louris has collaborated with over the years went on too, including names like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, The Dixie Chicks and Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, to name a few. And it’s clear—after hearing songs from Golden Smog and other side projects—that Louris is the Francis Coppola, the Babe Ruth, of songwriting. It seems as though everybody wants a piece of him, and after hearing tonight’s set list, it’s no wonder why. The man is a song factory, a lyric machine.

If you didn’t make it to the High Noon for Gary this time, make sure you catch him next time—which should be soon considering his upcoming shows with the ’94-’95 rendition of the Jayhawks and another album with fellow Jayhawk Mark Olson. After hearing unreleased songs like “Big City Snow” sneak into the set list, it’s clear we have a lot more Louris classics yet to come.

-Elizabeth Maxwell


Gary Louris – “Vagabonds”

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2 Responses

  1. Kyle is not the frontman for the Romantics. His band is called Romantica.

  2. Good eye, Dan! Thanks for the correction. It’s now fixed.

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