REVIEW: The Head & the Heart

Last Tuesday, October 29th, The Head and The Heart performed at the Royal Oak Music Theatre with opening bands Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and The Quiet Life. The Royal Oak Music Theatre only offers general seating, which is bad news for anyone arriving minutes before the main act. However, for those willing to stand packed tightly right in front, this venue is for you! Unfortunately, those opting for this option (as my friend and I ultimately did) would have had to listen to almost three hours of openers before The Head and The Heart graced the stage.

Though the first band, The Quiet Life, only started around 7:30 pm, they fed the crowd what we all wanted: some good lively music. With a sound that I can only describe as upbeat country, members of The Quiet Life played like they weren’t performing for another venue on the tour, but as if they were playing in some practice room for fun. In other words, they were up on stage just having an experience with each other.

The second opening act, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, brought with them a completely different environment that definitely changed things up. What was most remarkable about this band was the ease at which they changed their vibe from song to song. With electric energy, leader singer Thao Nguyen danced about the stage singing passionately starting their performance off big…that is, until the mood drastically changed with the next song. Here, the melodies turned darker and the lyrics harsher. Instead of predictable, building tempos, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down would usually play consistently slow right up until the chorus. Here the music burst with palpable energy, lead singer whirling around the stage. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down had just one slow tempo song, but this one was my favorite because it didn’t have any harsh undertones and wasn’t startling. After the performance I looked up this band and it really seems to me that the quality of their music is significantly better off their album. I would definitely recommend buying their album off iTunes, but perhaps would not elect to see them live again.

By the time The Head and The Heart actually started to play, it was 10 pm. I’d gotten there on time, so it had been three hours at that point and I was tired, pretty thirsty, and getting impatient. However, what was truly impressive was that as soon as they got on stage, none of it mattered. They brought with them such an uplifting vibe that from the second they began playing, all pain from waiting was forgotten and the crowd was completely recharged.

What’s really great about this band is that unlike most other groups, the lead sound in each song comes from someone different, each as talented as the last. They switch singers from song to song, alternating between Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russell, and the only female band member Charity Rose Thielen.

Photo by Vik Santaprakash
Pictured: Josiah Johnson, photo by Vik Santaprakash
Pictured: Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson, photo by Vik Santaprakash

They highlight different instruments in each song as well, often the guitar is most prominent, sometimes only the piano, and even the harmonica. The Head and The Heart had an amazing performance, cutting through the audience with their genuine spirit and utter joy. This band is the epitome of the kind of sound you want to hear in person, they are no less impressive than in their music videos or straight off their iTunes album. The only difference is, live, you get to feel their energy with them. To add to their playful stage presence, their between-song commentary was witty and entertaining. To be at this concert, to be a member of the audience, to see these characters in person…it was just fun.