The Jayhawks returned to their tradition with a holiday show in the Twin Cities, interrupted in 2020 by a pandemic cancellation, on December 18 at the Palace Theatre in St Paul, Minnesota.
Many band standards in the setlist were followed with a few song change-ups and a few guests added to the band lineup.
One of the top songs in The Jayhawks catalogue started out the evening, “Waiting for the Sun” from 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall.
The presence of Stephen McCarty on stage for the evening provided an interesting twist for songs like the next, “Angelyne.” McCarty served an instrumental part of the band with Rainy Day Music (2003) and has continued to provide some session tracking for the band’s albums since that time. Throughout the evening McCarthy switched between pedal steel and acoustic guitar.
Four songs from Rainy Day Music comprised the 22 song performance, as many as Tomorrow the Green Grass (TTGG) selections for the evening.
Set list choices are getting tougher to fit in all the favorites from the band’s 35 year catalogue. Newer gems like “This Forgotten Town” from 2020’s XOXO entered the setlist fray after “Angelyne.”
The Jayhawks worked their way well into Americana radio airplay in 2020 with XOXO, even as a pandemic year release. The album maintained staying power going into a second year to make the top 100 of the American Radio Albums Chart for 2021.
“Everybody Knows” followed, a co-write between frontman Gary Louris and The Dixie Chicks, now dubbed The Chicks. This is one of two songs appearing from 2016’s Back Roads and Abandoned Motels for the evening. The second, “Backwards Women,” a co-write with The Wild Feathers, appears later in the set.
Then came “Tampa to Tulsa” an expected appearance at shows for many fans because it’s the first song appearance in the band where drummer Tim O’Reagan provided lead vocals.
With Gary Louris’ marriage to a music devotee from the Ontario Province in 2020, there’s been a bit of a shine put on some Canadian bands during his livestreams. So a cover song by Canadian band, The Band, made an entry during the holiday show which also fits in with the season – “Christmas Must Be Tonight.”
Another classic from Tomorrow The Green Grass, “I’d Run Away” followed and ”Trouble” from 1997’s Sound of Lies. Kraig Jarrett Johnson guested on this song as well as some others, with acoustic and electric guitar accompaniment during different parts of the set.
In the production of XOXO, Tim O’Reagan and keyboardist Karen Grotberg have stepped up roles on the album. Each have two songs a piece with lead vocals. One of O’Reagan’s songs “Dogtown Days” was next in line on the set.
After “Nothing Left to Borrow” (TTGG), two songs from Rainy Day Music proceed, “All The Right Reasons” and “Save It For A Rainy Day.”
A definitive curveball appears during the show, a Steve Harvey and Cockney Rebel cover “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” sung by Karen Grotberg. After attending more than 100 shows since 2000, it would be intriguing to learn of the connection made with this song.
Guitar grinder “Big Star” from The Sound of Lies leads to the mellower and ever present song on setlists of The Jayhawks – “Blue.”
The regular set ends with back-to-back songs from Smile (2000) – “Somewhere In Ohio” and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”
When The Jayhawks return to the stage, Gary Louris speaks of his appreciation of the contribution Michael Nesmith made to country rock. In addition to being a member of the Monkees, Nesmith formed a seminal country rock band First National Bank.
In 2020, The Jayhawks had some livestreams on the Mandolin platform. One of those livestreams was a covers set where “Different Drum” is performed. While the song was recorded by Linda Rondstadt, it was written by Michael Nesmith. For the holiday show the song made a reappearance as a tribute with Nesmith’s passing on December 10.
Next were “Backwards Women,” mentioned above and “Bad Time” a Grand Funk Railroad cover appearing on the band’s 1995 Tomorrow The Green Grass. This song fits in for The Jayhawks as one of five core songs played on tours.
From time to time during the holiday shows, Dan Murphy will make an appearance. This year he was in one of the opening bands for the evening called The Scarlet Goodbye. At the holiday show this was the second public performage of The Scarlet Goodbye. Murphy is an emeritus musician of the Twin Cities scene as an alum of Soul Asylum and super group Golden Smog.
Another notable in the Twin Cities music scene, Matt Wilson & his Orchestra, were second openers before The Jayhawks took to the stage.
A couple Golden Smog songs have appeared on The Jayhawks set lists over the years. Stephanie Louris joined The Jayhawks on tambourine for her first holiday show. With Murphy, Louris and Johnson, along with bassist Marc Perlman of The Jayhawks all being members of Golden Smog, it was a perfect opportunity to jam out to “Until You Came Along” to close out the evening to a nearly full house.
Waiting for the Sun (HTH)
This Forgotten Town (XOXO)
Everybody Knows (BRAM) [The Chicks cover]
Tampa to Tulsa (RDM)
Christmas Must Be Tonite [The Band cover]
I’d Run Away (TTGG) *KJJ1
Trouble (SOL) *KJJ1
Dogtown Days (XOXO)
Nothing Left to Borrow (TTGG)
All the Right Reasons (RDM)
Save It For A Rainy Day (RDM)
Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) [Steve Harvey and Cockney Rebel cover]
Big Star (SOL) *KJJ2
Blue (TTGG) *KJJ1
Somewhere in Ohio (Smile)
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (Smile) *KJJ1
Different Drum [Michael Nesmith cover]
Backwards Women (BRAM)
Bad Time (TTGG) [Grand Funk Railroad cover]
Until You Came Along [Golden Smog cover] *KJJ1/Dan Murphy electric/Stephanie Louis tambourine
*KJJ1 (acoustic guitar)
*KJJ2 (electric guitar)