Review: The Jayhawks, HMV Picture House

The Jayhawks
The Jayhawks
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Pioneers of the alt-country genre, The Jayhawks, are rightly regarded as a hugely influential, if vastly underrated, band.

***

Critically acclaimed, yet never a large shifter of albums, the Minnesota outfit has, however, inspired many groups and maintained a devoted following since forming in 1985.

This was clearly evident on Saturday night, as a largely full Picture House turned out to see former Jayhawks – singer/guitarist Mark Olson and pianist Karen Grotberg – return to the fold after what seems like eons ago.

Indeed, Olson and co-founder Gary Louris are/were what you might call the Lennon and McCartney of the alt-country scene, so to see the greying bonce of Olson performing alongside the frizzy- haired Louris again was, in itself, enough to keep fans happy.

However, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Jayhawks would rather have been elsewhere – like at a funeral for example.

Ashen-faced and about as animated as a coat on a clothes hanger, you’d see more interaction between a divorced couple than this lot with their audience.

Louris muttered a few words about friends from Barcelona who’d come over to see them play. And although someone passed some “mail” onto the lip of the stage, neither Louris nor Olson were for revealing too much of its contents.

Okay, so perhaps we expect a bit too much entertainment from musicians nowadays. Nevertheless, for what The Jayhawks lack in showmanship, they more than make up for in their songwriting.

Carefully crafted tunes about blue-collar workers and those lingering on the fringes of society, 90 minutes with The Jayhawks is the musical equivalent of staring into a half-full pint of lager wondering where it all went wrong – albeit with a slight smile of optimism.

What’s really interesting, though, is the way their fans react. Some look on in abject amazement, whilst others either waltz with merry abandonment or applaud certain individual sections within the songs. That said, when the band neglected to reappear for an encore, you wondered if it was due to humility or simply because they didn’t feel like it. One senses it was a wee bit of both.