Since forming ten years ago in Seattle, the Head and the Heart have slowly built their way up from small clubs and open mics to performing at venues like Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, where the group played last night, marking what singer-guitarist Jonathan Russell said was the band's third time at the venue.
While the group didn’t sell the show out, it did fill about three-fourths of the venue, and the engaging 90-minute show gave the band the opportunity to show just much it’s evolved musically over the past decade. The set veered from tender folk ballads to mid-tempo rockers that made use of minimal synths and heavy drums.
Led by Russell, the band, which also includes singer-violinist Charity Rose Thielen, singer-guitarist Matt Gervais, bassist Chris Zasche, pianist Kenny Hensley and drummer Tyler Williams, relied on well-crafted songs and harmony vocals throughout the engaging 20-song set.
Early in the set, the group played “Missed Connection,” the big hit from its new album, Living Mirage
. The song featured a cross of spoken and sung vocals, and Russell managed to nail the falsetto chorus while still engaging in the call-and-response sequences with his bandmates. The band also delivered “All We Ever Knew,” another one of its big hits, early on, and that tune benefited from heavy drums and bass that turned it into a righteous rocker.
The group then shifted musical gears for “Another Story,” a song that found Russell harmonizing perfectly with Gervais and capably taking lead on a mid-song cappella segment. The poppy ballad “Let’s Be Still” had a somber quality to it and came off as the kind of song that would play in a heartbreaking scene in a movie about someone who was terminally ill. We even saw one mother and child take to twirling during the tune.
The band cranked up the electric guitars for “Up Against the Wall,” a song that had all the urgency of a vintage Springsteen number about trying to outrun your fears. “Lost in My Mind” had a Dylan-esque quality to it as Russell strapped on an acoustic guitar and helped the song build to a climax. The acoustic guitar-driven “Winter Song” found Russell and Thielen trading vocals, and Russell initially performed “Glory of Music” without any accompaniment. His band mates would eventually join him for the song’s conclusion and then stay on stage.
The set’s momentum built back up with the Crosby, Stills and Nash-like “Backwards Breathing” and the whimsical “Honeybee,” a song that had a trip-hop feel to it thanks to some percolating synths. “Sounds like Hallelujah” and “Down in the Valley” worked well together to close out the set. The band would return for a three-song encore that included a rousing rendition of “See Through My Eyes,” a brittle folk-pop tune that featured call-and-response vocals.
The Moondoggies, a sharp folk rock quartet that, like the Head and the Heart, comes from the Seattle area, opened the show with a 45-minute set that probably would’ve gone over better at a small club. But the scruffy twentysomethings capably sang harmony vocals and showed off their songwriting chops, channeling classic rock acts such as the Band and Crosby, Stills and Nash in the process.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.