The stage was full of small palm trees, antique boxes and various instruments. White orbs decorated the boxes. Unlit, they looked like they could be lamps or crystal balls. One neon pink flamingo lit the stage, never wavering. The light on the curtain looked like a blue pool, ready to dive into. It was quite a backdrop for a band hailing from the Pacific NW. It resembled the inside of a warm home, with California palms symbolizing their rebirth.
The Head and the Heart played in the heart of Jacksonville for the first time last night. They’ve skirted around it many times, hitting Georgia and the Carolinas, but never more south. In 2014, the closest they came was to Ponte Vedra Concert Hall to promote their second album, Let’s Be Still. Finally, Jacksonville got its chance to hear the folk bands stomps and hollers.
Charleston-based band Susto opened. They sang alternative country-rock ballads that energized the audience for their long-awaited sextuplet. Lyrics like, “She’s gonna eat me alive/She’s gonna choke on my skin/Gonna spit out my blue eyes” from “Dream Girl” cut straight through to your heart.
Then, one by one, the members of the Head and the Heart stepped onto the forest of a stage, smiling and waving.
They began with three songs from their new album, which felt like it was supposed to get the crowd energized, but fell short. Signs of Light took a different direction than the former two, its melodies being more summery, almost pop. The former two albums gained recognition for their slower, melancholic anthems that resonated deep in folk roots. Thus, it’s taken fans longer to fall in love with the third album than the other two.
When they played “Another Story,” a hit from Let’s Be Still, the crowd erupted with joy. Starting out with three newer songs had scared the audience, all holding their breath, wondering if they would hear older classics from the band.
The energy continued throughout the show, with fans screaming when Charity Rose Thielen’s violin rang out above everything else.
They kept alternating between old and new, but fans obviously preferred the old. When they played “Lost in My Mind,” fans sang the lyrics so loud it was almost hard to hear frontman Jonathan Russell sing. The rest of the band danced around the stage, laughing and clapping to the beat.
They slowed down a little to play “Library Magic,” a hidden hit on Signs of Light.
“But I can see the sunshine’s rays gleaming through the clear water/Telling me you gotta hop in for this chapter’s ride/There will always be better days,” Jonathan and Charity crooned as the crowd went quiet. The stage lights looked like sunlight streaming through trees.
They played “Shake,” and then it was over. No one would sit down, screaming for their hit, “Rivers and Roads.” The air felt tense when Jonathan came back out and sang a solo piece for his family in the audience. You could hear breath release when light shone on the rest of the band and they picked up their instruments.
The first strums of “Rivers and Roads” played and the crowd exploded. It was the one song they had all been waiting for. The audience knew every word. The voices and the air were electric. Charity’s voice echoed through the entire amphitheater, taking charge with three simple words, “rivers and roads.”