By: Kevin Rolfe
It doesn’t seem fair that one band can have so many talented musicians, so many talented vocalists, and so many talented songwriters that create so many great songs. There are bands out there that are barely able to squeeze out maybe one solid hit (which is more than I could ever do). Then there’s The Head and the Heart who have what seems like an endless supply of really great songs.
Fresh off two sold-out concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, The Head and the Heart met up with us here in Utah for their third show in as many days. Those Red Rock shows were streamed online. I took a peek at the first show and I knew we were in for a great night I was really excited to hear a lot of songs from the new album Living Mirage. I have really enjoyed that album. When UCR saw them at Park City Live back in March, The Head and the Heart played some songs from Living Mirage which was still a couple of months away from being released. I loved those songs and was excited to see how many more songs they’d perform on this tour.
There was no way the band wasn’t tired. Those Red Rock shows must have been exhilarating but exhausting. I’ve been to Red Rocks a couple of times and there is something special about being there. So to have performed there twice then travel to Salt Lake City and perform again, I don’t know how they didn’t just mail in the performance at The Complex. But they didn’t. They were in peak form. Their vocals were tight and strong. I fully expected them to be a little rough because of what those pipes had been through. But Jonathan Russell, who shoulders most of the lead vocals load sounded incredible. Charity Rose Thielen and Matty Gervais who also do some soloing sounded excellent as well.
The crowd was in rare form. They were primed and ready for The Head and the Heart to take the stage. Support band Hippo Campus had a generous draw of their own fans at this show. Bands like this are why you show up to see openers. They are a really good band. I had only heard of them but had never seen them live let alone heard one of their songs. It didn’t take long for me to join the ranks of those at The Complex who were loving their set. There were times that if I didn’t know better I would have thought they were the headliner. During the switching of the bands, I could hear people talking. It was funny to hear conversations of Hippo Camus fans and The Head and The Heart Fans discussing that they hadn’t heard of the other band. I myself spoke to some Hippo Campus fans and they told me they never miss seeing “The Faceless” (as Hippo Campus referred themselves) when they come to Utah. So they bought tickets having no idea who The Head and The Heart was. I was texting my buddy who was up in the front during Hippo Campus’ set and he said he had “never heard of these guys, the girls behind me are singing every word.”. So really, this was a chance for fans of both bands to learn of the other. My buddy texted me after Hippo Campus left the stage and said, “Those guys were really good!”. Incidentally, I ran into some of those who had never heard of The Head and the Heart and they thought they were awesome and couldn’t believe they hadn’t heard of them before. Sounds like a solid night for both bands and their fans. There’s nothing like discovering a new band!
The Head and The Heart wasted no time performing songs from Living Mirage. In fact, their first two songs out of the gate “Living Mirage” and “Missed Connection” were from their new album. I was really happy to hear the audience sing along and cheer their approval. You never know with new albums. But with Living Mirage being a top twenty charting album, I would think it’s safe to say people enjoyed these songs.
This was one of those concerts where I found my self saying “Oh Yeah!” or “Yes, I love this song!” throughout the entire night. They have so many great songs! And while they played plenty of new songs they did not hold back in playing the songs people hoped to hear. For example when they broke into one of their biggest hits, “All We Ever Knew” the crowd went nuts. I even saw some Hippo Campus fans turn to each other and say “Oh! I love this song! They sing this?”. I thought The Head and the Heart mixed their new songs with the crowd-pleasers perfectly. There wasn’t one lull in the show. Even when a song was a little more mellow the crowd was still fully engaged. They’d sing along or light up their phones and sway it back and forth. A lot of this is attributed to how much the band was putting into their performance. I kept thinking to myself, “These guys sure love what they do.”. Matty Gervais was all over the place! He would grab his mic stand and reach it over to the audience so they could sing into it. He jumped off the stage and hugged a bunch of fans up against the railing. He would begin a clap along with such force that there were times I fully expected to feel the wind from his clap. He caught my eye so many times but everyone in the band had their own version of that. Charity Rose Thielen seems like she’s lingering in the shadows only to appear when it’s time to sing her solos or play her fiddle. But if you watch her you can see her moving around the stage mugging with other bandmates or the crew off stage. She is clearly a crowd favorite. Every time she would sing, or speak, or move bow to strings the audience would roar.
There is this amazing moment that happens when you’re seeing The Head and the Heart in concert. You think the show is at a level that can’t be surpassed when all of a sudden they start “Lost in My Mind”. This song could easily be an encore song. But they usually perform it in the middle of their set. So the level of energy the show has at that point, the level you might think is the highest it’s going to get is totally obliterated to a new and mind-blowing high. The feeling is almost religious. It starts to feel like you’re at a tent revival in the heart of Virginia. People are clapping with their eyes closed, throwing their hands in the air, singing like their alone in their car and moving as if they don’t have a choice in the matter. It’s seriously one of my favorite parts of any concert I ever go to. And even though they have played a bunch of really great songs up to that point, the feeling “Ok, now the show had really started” enters my mind.
Following “Down in the Valley”, another song that really gets the feet, hands, emotions, and voices going, The Head and the Heart left the stage. The thing that concerns me about encores is that the band is going to come back and just sing one song. If you’re going to sing one song just don’t do an encore. This is another reason I love The Head and the Heart. They came back and did a four song encore! This is almost twenty more minutes of music. Of course, we’d welcome them back for a second encore but if not we’re good with them ending the night. They closed things out with “Rivers and Roads”. Phones were out and voices were booming. I feel like everyone has their story with that song. It’s been in movies and on TV shows, but I think it has personal meaning for everyone. It’s a powerful and perfect closer.
When I left I was both exhausted and fired up at the same time. I’m sure The Complex would admit it’s no Red Rocks Amphitheater, but they were a great host for this show. Security guards were giving drinks of water to those pressed up against the railing due to the summer heat. The sound was great in there. So yeah, maybe it’s not Red Rocks, but The Complex was a special place to be. I must admit I jumped on The Head and the Heart train a little late. I’ve only been a fan for a few years. Yes, I loved their early stuff and have known about them, but maybe it was seeing them live for the first time that made me realize I needed them in my life on a more regular basis. For now, I’m just going to try to make up for lost time. Let’s hope they make it back to Utah really soon!