Gregory Alan Isakov show review by Brian DeSpain
The 2021 tour for Gregory Alan Isakov kicked off at the Wave in Wichita, Kansas. After a number of rescheduled openings with The Lumineers dashed during the pandemic and other attempts for stage shows, Isakov was clear in his expression of gratitude to be performing for the crowd.
The set started with three songs from Evening Machines, nominated for a folk album Grammy in 2019, with San Luis,” “Southern Star” and “Dark Dark Dark” of five songs from the album performed on November 18.
“Amsterdam” was the first of six songs from 2013’s The Weatherman, followed by “Master & a Hound” from 2009’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere (TENH).
From subtle and subdued arrangements to lively and frenzied instrumentation: “Chemicals” (Evening Machines) with a banjo and violin arrangement, and “Liars” on the live album with the Colorado Symphony (2016), these provided the former until “Liars” builds to a crescendo of guitar and violin shredding.
Back to the delicate with “Dandelion Wine” (TENH).
Isakov took a solo with “She Always Takes It Black” from The Weatherman, then addressed the crowd, “It’s so surreal to get to do this. Glad we can make Wichita our first show. I’ve never been happier to play sad music.”
Shifting to a trio with a new song, “Appaloosa,” Isakov asked the cathartic question, “You guys had a good couple years?” to a large volume of crowd laughter.
Isakov shared that a lot of bands would come to the farm outside of Boulder, Colorado and play sad pandemic songs. He called them campfire and pizza gatherings.
“Second Chances” (The Weatherman) was next and then “Idaho” (TENH) provided lyrics that mention running thru the autumn leaves to match the season. Violin predominated with “Empty Northern” (TENH) and “The Universe” (The Weatherman).”
“Caves” preceded the final song on the regular set, striking the serious: “Did I hear something break / Was that your heart or my heart / Like when the Earth shakes /Then the silence follows.”
More comedic relief came after that from Isakov. He said the next song he heard at his local grocery store and he can’t stop playing it, which was his own – “Stable Song” from 2007’s That Sea, The Gambler. Encores were two songs from The Weatherman: “Saint Valentine” and “All Shades of Blue.”
Early in the set the lighting was very dark. So after the show, noticing one photo provided these shades of a blue hued Isakov added a twist to the evening given the final song.
Show opener Israel Nebeker joined the band at the front stage for the encores.