Lantern Tour show review
For the past several years, the cause has been creating a better life for refugees as Harris and Earle have taken the lead on The Lantern Tour. A benefit for the New York-based Women’s Refugee Coalition, Harris and Earle were accompanied on a short three-day Northeast jaunt by Amy Helm, Gaby Moreno, Thao, and the duo of Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams.
In the first of the three shows, held on Oct. 28 at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons, Va., the performers swapped stories and entertained attendees for almost two hours. While Harris and Earle were the headliners, the guitar-pull acoustic show featured terrific moments from each performer.
Here are some highlights:
• Moreno, for me, was the true discovery, performing the stunning “Ave Que Emigra” from her album “Postales” and the beautiful Ry Cooder–John Hiatt song “Across the Borderline,” which was part of her 2019 album “Spangled!” a collaboration with Van Dyke Parks. The Guatemalan artist, who calls her style “Spanglish folk soul” and co-wrote the theme song for “Parks & Recreation” (!), is an ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
• It was a homecoming for Thao, who performs solo as well as with her band (Thao and the Get Down Stay Down). Born in Virginia, the daughter of two Vietnamese refugees was raised in nearby Falls Church, where she started playing guitar and writing songs as a teen while working at her mother’s laundromat.
Thao performed a stirring version of “Temple,” the title track from her latest album, and noted how unusual it felt to ask Harris to accompany her on tambourine.
• Helm sang “Cotton and the Cane,” a song she wrote with Mary Gauthier, and played her father Levon’s mandolin throughout the set. It was lovely to hear the group perform “Atlantic City,” the Bruce Springsteen song that took on a new life in 1993 when The Band covered it with Levon on lead vocals.
• Campbell, a Bob Dylan tour veteran and Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist who also led Levon Helm’s band, served as the de facto music director for the evening. He and Earle accompanied the other artists, and Campbell and Williams performed songs from their three albums. I would love to see them in a full show.
• Harris performed a stirring version of her song, “My Name is Emmitt Till,” noting that she usually is more of an interpreter than a composer. But in this case, she said, the song “wrote itself,” telling the story of a 14-year-old Black boy whose brutal murder served as a spark for the Civil Rights Movement.
• Earle, as always, provided sparks as he told stories of moving from Nashville to New York City more than a decade ago. As expected, he played “City of Immigrants,” his tribute to his adopted town, and helped the group close the show with “The Pilgrim.”
Written for his bluegrass album, “The Mountain,” Earle noted “The Pilgrim” has become the standard closer for every benefit that he plays with Harris. Originally written as a tribute to Roy Huskey Jr., the song has become a universal hymn to those who are in ever-present danger of being left behind and now serves as a stirring call to arms.
In October 2018, the last time I saw The Lantern tour in person, Harris referenced the “65 million displaced persons around the world” before closing that show. In 2021, after years of political and social justice unrest and a global pandemic, that number now stands at 80 million.
“I’m just a pilgrim on this road, boys. ’Til I see you, fare thee well.”
For more information on the Lantern tour, click here: https://www.thelanterntour.org
For more photos from the show, go to my Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/glenncookphoto/albums.