Pete Yorn at The Belly Up Tavern, Thursday, April 23, 2015
You and Me Extended Tour :: California
How much does a venue affect a show? How much does the energy of an audience? These are the questions I pondered on my way home after Pete Yorn’s night at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. I had never been to this venue, although its been around since 1974. The Belly Up just may have taken over the top slot of my favorite venues. The sound, the space and the overall feel of the place is as near to perfect as I’ve ever encountered, and it suited Pete’s stripped down, one-man, no set-list show perfectly. The crowd, too, were as incredible as the place itself. The energy swirled and soared through the room, cheers and collected voices singing-a-long in such unison that one would almost think the lot of us were part of the show’s “chorus“. It is rare to experience that kind of connection of different people together, a bit of magic that music provided, I like to think.
Magic is definitely a word I’d use to describe this night of the You and Me Extended Tour. Pete was full of energy and a joy that painted his face in smiles and a glow that was infectious. Was this what got the crowd to fill the room with the outpouring of delight and song, or were we sending all that up to the stage? I like to think it was a circular thing, a flow of wonder that made everything feel electric. Whatever came first in this musical chicken and egg question, all I know is that it was impossible not to be swept up in it.
Pete opened with a one-two punch of cover and fan favorite, starting off with the start of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City which led into Murray. This is a cover and original combination that I’d heard him do before live, one that I’ve raved about with friends many times when discussing Pete’s music. It was the perfect way to begin this night. Pete is masterful with cover songs, teetering on that precarious balance of paying tribute to the original art while making it completely his own. More than that though, it seems that he chooses the covers he records and/or performs for their lyrical connection, because he sings them with the same emotion that he does the songs he’s written himself. Thus, they are delivered in that personal way like the best mix tapes/CD’s did back when you made one for that girl or boy you crushed on so much that words could not express, but a song or songs, sure could.
Murray is a special brand of magic, too. A song that when performed live elicits a group scream-sing, especially when the “uh uh uh uh uh uh uh’s” come. If you go now and listen to the song on its own (see here) I dare you to not sing-a-long to them. All our voices together, and the feel of bodies moving along to the sound, felt like an electric current shooting through us and shaking the floor.
Other highlights of the night were deep cut/b-side Knew Enough to Know Nothing at All which Pete seemed happily surprised to be asked to perform, noting that he wasn’t quite sure why it had never made it on to an album as it was a favorite of his. I’d agree that it was a great song, one I’d not heard more than once before. Other covers, Warren Zevon’s Splendid Isolation, and Junior Kimbrough’s I Feel Good Again, were not just favorites of the night, but of this tour so far. Both of these songs, though I know they are not Pete’s originals, certainly feel that way now because they have become so his. The latter (I Feel Good Again), performed the way he did with added pedal rhythms and effects gave the tune a rockabilly feel that got us all dancing. I tried to capture some of it on video, but it truly was a “you had to be there” moment. I’ve used the word probably too much in this review already, but it was magic.
Another highlight for me was Social Development Dance, which has now become one of my top five favorite Pete Yorn songs. The storytelling element in this song is the kind that always gets deep under my skin; the emotions this song delivers are both moving and meaningful. It easily slides into my list of favorite stories told in song alongside ones by Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen and Wilco. This is the song that after each of these shows I’ve gone to immediately to hear again, and again.
Other highlights were Undercover, from the Nightcrawler album, and the Spiderman movie soundtrack, Turn of the Century (my request!) that Pete had to re-tune his guitar for, a process that he remarked gave a sound reminiscent of the Rosemary’s Baby theme, and another go at Kirsty Macoll’s cover They Don’t Know which I absolutely love and hope Pete records someday.
The night ended with an encore made up of a fan favorite threesome. Crystal Village (another favorite of mine) led into Strange Condition and finished off with a rendition of For Nancy (‘Cos it Already Is) that literally shook the house. That energy of the crowd I mentioned before tripled and exploded as we all sang-a-long to every word. When it all ended there were people around me who said “is that it?” and “it can’t be over yet“, which to note made me smile because this night’s setlist was actually four songs longer than the night before. These were not complaints though, no, they were just reactions to all that magic (yes, that word again, trust me, it fits) that no one wanted to let go of yet.
My only slight (very slight) disappointment of the night was that Pete did not grace us with another new song, or a replay of the fantastic Halifax that he’d debuted the night before. I look forward to the new album, and any subsequent tour that follows, and I just really wanted that room of wonder to hear something from the upcoming album, too.
For the complete set-list from the Belly Up Tavern show see here.
Or, if you’d rather a more sonic sample, you can give a listen to a playlist I made from the set-list here.
Thank you for the music. Stay tune for the third, and final stop on this tour (for me).
If you can make it out to one of the Northern California shows – well, what are you waiting for – go here and grab a ticket.