Pete Yorn at The Independent :: ArrangingTime Tour, Saturday, April 16, 2016
The Independent :: San Francisco, California
ArrangingTime came around last month, and after seeing Pete play live for KCRW with his new band (with some new, and some not so knew members) I was itching for April to get here, and for his San Francisco date to finally arrive.
I decided to make the trek to San Francisco after no Los Angeles dates were set, and when I knew I was not going to make it to this year’s Coachella. I had not been to San Francisco since the early 90’s, and it seemed the perfect excuse to return to one of my favorite cities to see one of my favorite musicians play.
I could write volumes about what reuniting with San Francisco has meant to be, but that’s for another post and another time. This, here right now, is to be a review of the amazing show I was lucky enough to experience this past Saturday, in San Francisco, at The Independent, with one of my favorite musicians, Pete Yorn.
Arriving early, my friend and I lined up for the pre-show VIP experience. There were about twenty of us total, and as we stood there in the cool breezed-twilight, we could hear Pete and the band running through a few songs, mostly off his new album. The effect of near perfect weather and those audible glimpses of music was just palpable.
I could feel it, the excitement rising between the group of us, as time ticked slowly by and we waited there, together, (im)patiently for more. I started to think about time, a loose theme of the new album, and how being in a moment of time, right there in it, is sometimes so hard to comprehend, much less do.
But I was standing there, listening, I was trying hard to do just that.
As I entered the venue my first thought was how small it was. The closest I could compare it to is probably one of my favorite local music places, the Roxy, in Los Angeles – where Pete will play in early May.
Pete and the band were messing arond on-stage, teasing out a few strums and beats of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” which immediately made me laugh and think of “soft FM radio” taking over. The band seemed jovial, laughing and joking in-between Pete and the sound engineer back-and-forth, as they all readied themselves for the night ahead.
There is something special about sound checks, They remind me of times when I’ve sat around with musicians, watching art being teased out of a guitar, lyrics being fleshed out, and that artistic spark coming alive. The casualness, mixed with anticipation of what’s to come, pulsed through the room and we all felt a part of it.
It was magical, truly, and I can’t recommend enough adding that extra to the experience of seeing Pete live, if you have the opportunity.
I had some time to talk to Pete after the soundcheck. The experience of performing with a band came up in conversation, a difference from the last tour I reviewed, which was acoustic, and just Pete and his guitars on-stage. Working with a band again is different, of course, and he mentioned that the opportunities to dive into the wealth of songs he has in him isn’t quite as available, but he seemed happy to be playing with them.
We talked some about the new album, which I also can’t recommend enough, and I mentioned how I think it is reaching a wider listener/audience than other, more recent albums of his have.
Though all of Pete’s records are amazing, as my past reviews can attest, there is something special about ArrangingTime. I think, not to “pun up” this review, that now is the right time for this album – it both embraces and transcends the musical landscape of here and now, and I think between Capital Records promotion of it, and the way Pete himself has shared these songs, that more people are hearing, responding and embracing the album – and I’m really glad for that.
Really, truly, if you haven’t heard the album, go now go and check-it out for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. You can pick up a copy here.
My friend and I went backstage, with two others – a couple who had their first wedding dance to Pete’s “Just Another Girl” – and Pete came in, with an acoustic guitar, and took our requests. The couple obviously wanted “Just Another Girl”, along with “Rock Crowd”, my friend asked for “This Fire”, the amazing and heartbreaking last track off of ArrangingTime, and I requested “Roses”, another new song that I fell hard for from the first listen – oh how I love songs about Los Angeles.
It was an intimate and amazing musical moment, one I don’t think any of the four of us will forget. And, it made those songs mean just that much more to me, as well as expand on the respect I have for Pete, as an artist, and as a person.
He is kind and generous with his time (there it is – time again), and very genuine with those who appreciate and love his music. Its a nice thing to see in the music and entertainment business, which isn’t always that way.
Backstage ended, the memories carefully carried away with us, and my friend and I made our way to the main floor, settling in close to center stage. We met some very cool people in the crowd, some that we’d talked to outside in line, a couple that we’d met earlier, at San Francisco Amoeba, for a signing Pete did, and others who just started talking while we waited in anticipation.
It’s always great to meet other fans of the music you love.
I especially enjoy learning how other people discovered Pete’s music, as well as hear what people think of the new album. So much of the feedback I’ve gotten on ArrangingTime falls into the category of every song being a hit, every track being strong and the album, all-around, being incredible.
The lights went down then, and the first opening strums and notes of Junior Kimbrough’s “I Feel Good Again” started up. This is one of my all-time favorite covers of Pete’s – especially performed live.
I’ve written about the significance and impact of an opener at a live show before, how it is this precarious balance of gauging the crowd, igniting the crowd, and firing the artist – and band – up, too. That mix seemed magical Saturday night, and “I Feel Good Again” seemed like THE SONG to start us all out with. It seemed that way for Pete, too.
I love this song done live. Love love love it. Especially the slowed down, intentional, guitar strums that lead into a rocking build towards the middle. This rockabilly-country-blues song got everyone moving, the pulse and energy shooting off all around the room, and it got us all ready and raring to go.
“I Feel Good Again” led in perfectly to fan-favorite, “Life On a Chain’, from Pete’s debut album, musicforthemorningafter. This song is a crowd-pleaser, and an all-out sing-a-long song. I felt the energy explode further, and could hear so many voices around me, scream-singing with it.
The band sounded fantastic in this song, so tight and on point, and still possessing that taste of raw energy that we all so want to consume. I could already tell this was going to be a good night, so different than when I saw Pete’s unplugged shows, but different in that great, memory-making kind of way.
Pete looked happy, and seemed to be feeling it – the music, the crowd, his band, the night – while singing “Life On a Chain”. I sometimes wonder if bands and artists dread dragging out the old hits, if it makes them want to zone out some – and honestly, I wouldn’t blame it if they did. I know the fans love it, to hear the songs they all know the words to, but I still wonder that, nonetheless.
But, Pete seemed anything BUT turned off by singing the hit. On the contrary, he seemed as into it as we all were.
Transitioning from the old to the new, “Summer was a Day” came in to sweep us away, like a needed breeze in the middle of a blistering hot day, or like a daydream that both soothes and inspires. I loved that so many people around me were singing-a-long to the chorus, that this song, and the new album, is getting in deep with people.
From there, he brought us Day I Forgot’s track, “Pass Me By” – a lyrical favorite of mine – then back to another ArrangingTime song, my current favorite from the album, “She was Weird”. THIS song is destined to be a crowd sing-a-long, take my word for it; it is just built that way, I think, especially when the layered verses come in at the end (“I’m looking for you”/”Got left on the side of the road”), and that pop-infused, catchy as hell chorus.
“Turn of the Century” was next, a song that my friend and I had requested when we were backstage, and Pete said he’d play, saying “I like playing that one.” This is one of those songs that always makes me cry, and though I did not fall into a full sob fest during the song (I save that for when I’m listening in the car), I did tear up. This song is so beautiful – seriously sigh-worthy wonderful.
The mood shifted to what Pete described as one of his more happy/hopeful songs, the 80’s inspired (that’s what it reminds me of, at least), heavily pop-laden, danceable, destined to also be a crowd group-sing song, “Tomorrow” – another great track from ArrangingTime.
“Black” brought us into to the “morning after” days again, only to plummet us back to the present (so much TIME symbolism in this review) with “Halifax”.
“Halifax” was the first track I ever heard from the new album. Pete played it a few times during the “You and Me” tour last year, and I loved it immediately. There is a melancholic thread that weaves through this song, yet there is also an overarching haze of hope that permeates within it, especially in the “bus stop waiting” chorus.
I also love the abrupt stop this song has – especially live. That hard stop feels like someone hit a pause button, to think, to take back something, to shift perspectives, or maybe to go back somewhere. TO STOP TIME.
How incredible is “Lost Weekend”, from ArrangingTime, live? However incredible you might think, if you are already loving the song off the album, times that by ten thousand. No, I’m not kidding, it blew the crowd away live. And the band sounded so great during this song, too.
This is a song to get lost to, to fall in love with, and to fall in love with someone to. I mean it. It is that Summertime love you can’t ever quite shake all rolled up in a song, dripping in nostalgia and memory and desire.
Damn good stuff.
The night continued with “Just Another” and “Closet”, off of musicforthemorningafter, and “Social Development Dance”, a song from the Back and Fourth album that I fell in love with back when Pete was doing the “You and Me” tour last year.
There is something about this song live that cuts deep into me, always bringing back memories of losing my late husband, and always bringing with it tears. Its so damn beautiful though, that I don’t mind so much – sometimes you want to be softly killed by music, don’t you think?
Pete and the band turned the mood around, again, by transitioning to the more upbeat, post-excess, hangover ready tune, “Screaming at the Setting Sun”.
“Screaming…” led into another cover, the last for the night.
Pete covering Smiths and/or Morrissey songs is one of my favorite things, and he did not disappoint with his take on Morrissey’s “Suedehead”. So much adolescent angst memories simmer and burn hearing that song – my younger, teenage self was cheering and singing-a-long.
Have I mentioned the band yet?
How guitarist/pianist, Joe Kennedy (so GOOD to see/hear Joe live again), drummer, Scott Seiver and bassist, Jon Spiker, are amazing live?
Well they are!
All of them together just added so much to the energy, emotion and feeling to the songs and the show.
At one point these two guys made their way to the front and were dancing so hard they were almost turning the space around them into a pit. It was pretty damn cool to see, and I tell ya, Pete’s vocals and the band along with him, made things like that happen.
Two musicforthemorningafter fan favorites came up next, “Strange Condition” and “Murray”. The resounding voices singing-a-long to “Murray” shook the walls and floor, as did everyone jumping and dancing. The experience of that song gifted us all that experience of really being in it – in the music, in the night, in the show itself.
What a great way to end the night’s set.
And then came the encore…
The encore started with my all-time favorite Pete Yorn song, “Crystal Village”. Pete played it acoustically, just him and his guitar. It was a stripped down version and it brought the tears and the chills and all emotions. I loved it. So much.
It honestly made my night.
“On Your Side”, “The Man”, and by request, “Paradise Cove” – all such stellar song choices, and all such beautiful songs, were all part of the encore, too.
And, to end off the night, a song that was celebrated on the tee shirt I bought at the show…”For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)” brought the house down.
Those two guys who were trying to turn the front of the crowd into a pit? They went CRAZY. The whole crowd did, really, as we sang our hearts out with Pete.
It was awesome.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I will say it again…if you get the chance to see Pete Yorn play live DO IT. And give that new album, Arrangingtime, some of your listening time, too. I promise, you will not regret it.
Thanks for the music, Pete.