Smile Politely

“Cats and Dogs” and crescendos

I walked into Monday’s show at the Canopy Club with high expectations — the result of thoroughly enjoying The Head and The Heart’s self-titled debut album and reading lots of material about them for the preview article I wrote.

In the past I’ve had bad experiences when I expect so much from bands. Either I don’t get the spectacular performances I’ve read about/seen on YouTube, or it’s obvious the band just doesn’t give a damn about some college town in the part of Illinois that is not Chicago. I’m happy to say The Head and The Heart were anything but a let down. Their performance was everything I expected it to be.

The most notable way the band excelled was in their sound. Their brand of folk is plaintive, not particularly challenging, and they delivered exactly as I would expect. Truly impressive were the band’s harmonies, which sounded as rich and on key as they do on the album. There was never a note out of place; each of the band’s three singers hit their marks with aplomb — a fact not wasted on the audience. (Side note: The sound at the Canopy was the best I’ve heard it in a long time. Well done, Canopy sound crew.)

The other remarkable aspect of THATH’s performance was the emotion they conveyed. In Pitchfork’s review of their debut, the writer makes some snarky comment (as P4K writers tend to do) deriding the band’s singers for trying to out-earnest one another. Maybe there’s something to that critique if you are listening to THATH via headphones staring into your computer; but seeing the band perform those songs, seeing the way they emote and the way they connect with what they are singing, removes all doubt of their earnestness.

From the first song, “Cats and Dogs,” the band made both their powerful performance and emotional connection evident. THATH then transitioned to “Coeur D’Alene,” as they do on their album, and built the excitement and emotion to a crescendo — but just a small one to start.

The whole show went this way. The band built their energy up and whipped the crowd into frenzy to gently bring them back down with their soft voices and lulled instrumentals. It was a beautiful way to organize their set, and it was effective because it didn’t solely rely on beating the crowd over the head with songs from their lone full-length album.

The obvious highlights, however, did come from that eponymous album. The first great crescendo came in the middle of the set during “Lost in My Mind”: the energy as the music broke down to just guitar and piano was palpable. THATH went beyond that high with their set closer “Rivers and Roads,” during which Charity Rose Thielen — who is not featured often as the lead singer — broke out her diva voice and drew huge ovations from the crowd.

When the band returned for an encore they left the audience with one final, awesome crescendo. Ending on “Down in the Valley,” the band poured out all they had, all the while smiling and clearly loving every minute they had on stage at the Canopy. In the background, the sound of the crowd singing along proved no one was left disappointed by the performance of THATH, no matter what expectations they came in with.


Photos by Chris D. Davies

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