Gregory Alan Isakov with opener Joe Purdy — Durham Performing Arts Center
March 24th, 2022
Originally from South Africa, Grammy-nominated Gregory Alan Isakov now calls Colorado the place he hangs his hat. For those who witnessed his show at the Durham Performing Arts Center you’d know his real home is on the stage.
Folk musician Joe Purdy kicked off the evening opening the show with his self-deprecating humor and captivating songwriting. He easily pulled the audience right into the show and made them feel like friends. There was a lot of laughter in between songs as Purdy told the crowd about the lyrics he would sing and ultimately proved what a great entertainer he is. “This is a song I wrote about my girlfriend,” he said. While we are all thinking how sweet the song will be, he adds in “from the third grade.” At one point after a solid song he jokingly said, “I’m gonna sing that one again and this time it’ll sound better.” You can’t fool us Joe, we were already sold.
The evening was set with a dark ambiance that pairs well with the deep, emotive songwriting roots of Gregory Alan Isakov. Isakov nurtures his songwriting with heartache and the depth of the human spirit.
Isakov spoke to the audience during the show explaining that he is the go-to for his friends when it comes to anxiety. No surprise there as his audience understands that his music is dark, but relatable for those who have been through the hard stuff and recognize the pain in his music. He said he might have a song about anxiety, maybe all of them.
He names his personal anxiety “Carl.” “Carl can come to dinner but can’t talk,” he says. The thing is, Carl is connecting with the world through song. And that makes us all feel a little less alone on the hard days. The red light shining through the kick drum resembling the veins of the heart and his voice vibrating the aorta.
“Second Chances,” “Honey, It’s Alright” and “She Always Takes It Black” from Isakov’s 2013 album, The Weatherman, all made an appearance on the set list that night.
Of one song he states, “This might be the saddest song on the record, that’s why you’re here right?” But they aren’t all so sad and slow. Isakov put on an amazing performance and fans walked out smiling and reminiscing of smaller venues they’d seen him play in the past. One of which is the Cat’s Cradle, close by in Carrboro, NC, which Isakov mentioned specifically from the stage.
“Chemical” from his Grammy-nominated album Evening Machines reverberates in the same way most of his songs do, with a sense of awareness of the pain in this world, and how we face it with a vulnerable honesty. That’s how people connect with him as a songwriter, and that’s why the fans are there tonight. To witness how Isakov is able to turn pain into a beautiful piece of art.
Coffee burns, the stomach churns
Chemicals and caffeine
You saw her bathing in the creek
Are you jealous of the water?
Are you jealous of the water?
If it’s alright, I call you that
I’ve been running solo, but it ain’t all that
They say it’s the take and the give
All that emptiness knows just where I live
Yeah that emptiness knows me
Article and Photos by Shana Leigh Photography