Story and photos by Matt SchwenkeWith two shows left to complete well over a year of touring in support of Use Your Voice, Mason Jennings showed signs of tiring from the tour, but with the help of his band and the sold-out crowd at Shank Hall, Jennings and company still managed to give a great performance.
After the opening acts had finished, the smell of sage briefly cleansed the air and seemed to wipe the musical palette clean before the next course. Taking the stage in faded jeans, a simple collared shirt, and worn boots, Jennings strolled over to his mic and thanked the crowd for its support. After checking in with bassist Chris Morrissey and drummer Brian McLeod who followed right behind, Jennings went right in to things and opened the night with a mix of new and old that set the tone for the rest of the evening. The appearance and stage presence of this band would soon mimic the honest simplicity found in their music.
Even though a strain could be heard in Jennings tour-worn voice, the transplanted Minnesotan's delivery and songwriting in older tunes such as "Big Sur," "Butterfly," "California," and "Darkness Between the Fireflies" was a little raw, simplisticly beautiful, and full of space-- much like the geography of Minnesota. Then there were the newer tunes like "Bullet," "Crown," and "Living In the Moment" that pushed the concert along and turned up the intensity within the crowd. Providing backing vocals while laying down velvety smooth bass lines, Chris Morrissey was solid all night. Drummer Brian McLeod was equally steady and seemed to be paying attention to every beat he pounded on his small drum kit. Adding to the traditional set-up of guitar, bass, and drums, Jennings displayed some of his multi-instrumental talent by playing harmonica over his guitar and taking a seat to play keyboard for a run of songs. As most of Jennings lyrics deal with hope, longing, and the difficulties of human experience, it was only fitting that Jennings brought members of the opening acts on stage during the encore to help in a version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold."
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