The Jayhawks lineup that took the stage Friday night at the Brown Theatre hasn't toured together as a band since about 1995, when Mark Olson left the group. But over the years, the original players have circled back around again, much to the delight of longtime fans. As Olson reminded the audience, Louisville was one of the places that the early Jayhawks visited many times in the 90s; in fact, the city has a cameo of sorts in the song, "Miss Williams' Guitar," which they played as part of the night's setlist.
While there was certainly an air of nostalgia about this show, along with the undeniable pleasure of hearing the classic Jayhawks sound in songs like "Waiting for the Sun" and "Blue," I was struck by how much more there is to this band than just a nod to the past. There may be a few more hard-won lines around the eyes and a little more gray at the temples (the same might be said of their audience) -- but no one is resting on their laurels. The newest songs flow seamlessly with the older Jayhawks' material, mining territory somewhere between country and baroque folk-rock. For example, "She Walks in So Many Ways" has a distinctly 60s retro feel with jangly guitars and an upbeat vibe. The layering of Olson's and Gary Louris's voices is still just as satisfying, and like those harmonies, the songs themselves seem made up of layers of complex sound and structure -- music that is obviously crafted, not just laid down, following familiar patterns.
After a set that peppered music from their recent release with gems from the early Jayhawks' era, an appreciative crowd welcomed the band's encore -- also a balance of the old and new -- two of the strongest songs from Mockingbird Time, "Tiny Arrows" and "She's Not Alone Anymore," plus "Tampa to Tulsa" with drummer Tim O'Reagan on lead vocals, and their popular cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "Bad Time."
Bass player Marc Perlman and Mark Olson of The Jayhawks
Singer and guitarist Gary Louris
Karen Grotberg on keyboard
Nashville singer/songwriter Rayland Baxter opened for The Jayhawks
(Photo Credits: Lee Burchfield)