CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (July 30, 2103) As I listened to Jeffrey’s edgy voice and simple, inviting guitar stylings, my mind was filled with visions of the world as Jeffrey sees it and expresses in his songs. It’s the world as seen by someone who seems to feel he’s an observer on the outside looking in, but knowing more about what lies at the heart of things than those actually participating in the events. I had visions of a trucker driving toward a dusky city skyline, smoke filled bars filled with Jack Daniels philosophers, a lone figure walking along a dusty road stretching into the horizon between fields of corn, or a man sitting silently at the kitchen table with a woman he’s not sure he loves enough to remain with her or not.
It was almost an ironic contrast that Jeffrey’s between song banter was light-hearted, displaying a humility that made the quality of his songs all the more powerful.
Jeffrey’s set ended too soon for me, breaking my reverie and leaving the capacity audience wanting more. When Jeffrey declared he had time for only one more song, someone cried out “TEN MORE!!!” and the audience cheered and applauded.
Gregory Alan Isakov came out on stage alone, and opened with a couple of heartfelt songs before inviting the rest of his band out. The contrast between Gregory and Jeffrey was more than just the presence of the band. His voice is purer, more “innocent” in delivery (but no less filled with emotion and nuance). The songs he performed reflected a view of the world that is more romantic, yet equally as thoughtful, as those of Jeffrey Foucalt.
With Jeb Bows on violin (yes, seriously), Philip Parker on cello and Samaya Soskin on guitar, and banjo, it was obvious that everyone in the band shared Gregory’s passion for songs which present a world viewed as through the eyes of someone who maintains a childlike wonder at it all. At one point in time, they all gathered around a single mike for the “Geeky Folk” part of the performance. It’s obvious Gregory and his mates love performing, and everyone in the audience loved watching them.
He had a lot of fun with the audience, giving me the impression that for him, live performance is like setting a kid loose in a toy store and saying “Oh, and if you break something, don’t worry about it”. He even had fun with Karen the lighting tech by saying “Dim the lights please: give me Mordor”. A few seconds later the stage was bathed in deep red light: Gregory laughed in appreciation.
Gregory’s songs ranged from contemplative to passionate to simply fun, but in all cases it was the lyrics that captured the audience and kept us hanging on every note and every word. My favorite of the evening was “The Universe”, a song off Gregory’s latest album “The Weatherman”. It’s a love song to all the glorious creation as Gregory sees it, with a bit of melancholy as from someone who realizes that not everyone appreciates the Universe as much as he does. Gregory used a bullhorn effect on the vocal: I’m still trying to decide whether it added to or detracted from a hauntingly beautiful song that is still drifting through my thoughts like a lingering scent of perfume.
That’s the great satisfaction of Tuesday night’s double bill: two great singer/songwriters offering songs that engaged the heart, soul and spirit of everyone in the audience. It was a show that will linger in the memories of all those who attended for quite some time.