The Head and the Heart end their Signs of Light tour in DC as the Anthem continues it’s early run of big names.
On a cool October night, The Head and the Heart brought with them a familial warmth, like we in the audience were participants in a reunion. A 19-song set that well-represented three studio albums, a cover, and an unfinished new song; songs transformed into partial sing-alongs; musicians (particularly vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charity Rose Thiele,) bringing the room to cheers and then silence at just the hint of a voice.
A large part of that comes from the strength of their songs, but along with that, there’s a growth to this band, an evolution over time that feel like the expansion and contraction of a family. They began mostly acoustic early on, emotionally striving, wrestling with expectations, loves, trajectories of themselves and those around them. Then they expanded their sound, becoming a more mature group that had found some answers but deeper questions as well. And most recently, they’ve continued to widen their range, maybe not reading as clearly on the surface, but immediately older and more probing underneath.
All of that is to say, there’s a sweep, a scope, and the band carries that into the room, and the audience runs with it, and it’s not the type of thing you can easily find in a space the size of the Anthem.
The show opened with a few energetic songs (“All We Ever Knew”, “City of Angels”, “Ghosts”), but it’s on their sixth song of the night when they change the room. “Let’s Be Still”. The atmosphere begins to change immediately, but it’s a little over a minute in when Charity begins to sing, and it’s a little over a minute when everyone loses their minds. “You can get lost in the music for hours, honey/You can get lost in a room, We can play music for hours and hours/but the sun will still be coming up soon.” An extended coda stretches the song out to the lyrics, “Ain’t no time left for me.” Sung in a crouch on stage, Jonathan Russell renders this haunted line especially plaintive.
The show moves elegantly between newer songs and older ones, one cover (“Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House), and one unfinished song begun the day Tom Petty died. The Head and the Heart wear their reverence for and belief in music on their sleeves. The energy on stage is strong, with three band members (Charity, Jonathan, Matt) on mics up front at all times, plenty of dancing and jumping up onto the drum platform, and a physical dialogue with the crowd.
Their encore, still moving through the albums, covers one song from each. The haunting “Library Magic” from Signs of Light, the rousing “Shake” from Let’s Be Still, and the emotional, climactic, they-had-to-close-the-show-with-this “Rivers and Roads” from The Head and the Heart.
This is not my first experience with The Head and the Heart. I’ve seen them in cold venues (DAR Constitution Hall) and odd ones (performing at the finish festival for the Rock N’ Roll Marathon in DC years ago). Neither was ideal but this band, their shared emotions, their strength of songs, made them work and convinced me to hang around.
Time goes along. Band composition changes, voices might lose a little range, songwriting has peaks and valleys. Through it all, there is something very human about this band that inspires in just the right way.
All We Ever Knew
City of Angels
Rhythm & Blues
Let’s Be Still
Take a Walk
Lost in My Mind
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House cover)
Oh My Dear
I Don’t Mind
Sounds Like Hallelujah
Down in the Valley
Unfinished Song (written when Tom Petty died)
Rivers and Roads