Live Review: The Head and The Heart

16 Jul

Prince Albert, Thursday, July 14 2011

By signing to Sub Pop last year, The Head and the Heart ended one of the most frantic Stateside scrambles for a band’s signature in donkeys years.

What’s more impressive is that the Seattle six-piece caused such a stir without media hype, a PR machine or on the back of gushing praise from bloggers.

Since early 2009 they’d been flogging their self-recorded eponymous album at gigs and in a couple of local stores.

In a matter of months they’d shifted 10,000 copies. It’s a DIY ethos older than the houses, and it fits perfectly.

After all, tonight at the Albert confirms their soul-stirring, folk-driven Americana is from another era, far removed from the digital age.

Ok, so they are hardly going against the grain – scores of heart-on-sleeve folk-influenced acts have cropped-up over the past couple of years – but none of them can hold a torch to these three-part harmonies.

For the best part of an hour, Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell brilliantly trade-off rugged vocals, while Charity Rose Thielen adds a softer sound to the mix.

Throw in some surprisingly powerful drumming and Ben Folds Five style piano and you’ve got a collection of foot-stomping live tracks which go down well with the crowd.

It’s earnest and intense, but somehow manages to retain a sense of fun. In fact, this is how the Fleet Foxes would sound if stopped dreaming about orchards and got some fire in their bellies.

As rousing as these songs are, it’s a couple of slower numbers which really stand out.

When they tame the piano and slow down the drums, the vocals have more space to breathe and dominate.

The three singers effortlessly switch  roles as violin swirls around their harmonies. If you’re heading to a festival this summer, here are your camp-fire classics.

Despite two years of grass-roots success, it’s sweet that they still seem surprised by the number of people of here and the strength of the reactions.
It’s a modesty, which, combined with performances like this, should see them go far.

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