In what proved to be the perfect venue for the ‘dark and peaceful sadness’ of his music, Isakov reveled in the beauty of the Grand Rapids church on Saturday night. Review, photos.
Gregory Alan Isakov, touring behind his latest release, “Evening Machines,” played to a capacity crowd of more than 1,500 on Saturday at Grand Rapids’ hallowed Fountain Street Church — and you could hear a pin drop.
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The perfect venue for a man with Isakov’s voice, the Boulder, Colo., singer-songwriter filled the historic church with songs spanning his career and praised the audience for its attentiveness, commenting that it’s “rare to get a listening room with this many people in it” while stating a few songs in that it “was so quiet (he) didn’t want to ruin it by talking.”
When he did talk, he made it count.
He shared stories about his unique approach to songwriting (ripping up pages from sci-fi and romance novels and piecing together lines), about friends who run preschools using his music at nap time, and most notably, about his appreciation for the “musical crowd” that found his music despite him “not having any radio songs.” It all proved to lighten the mood from the dark and peaceful sadness that defines much of his music.
Isakov’s songs, as to be expected though, spoke for themselves. Clearly feeling his surroundings, he touched on a handful of tunes over the course of the show that alluded to imagery of churches.
ELOQUENCE, DELICACY AND POWER
The lines ranged from “churches and trains, they all look the same to me now” in “Amsterdam” to “calling up the steeples of the church yard” from “This Empty Northern Hemisphere.”
One of the most powerful moments of the night came when Isakov and banjo player Steve Varney shared the stage alone, reaching back for the evocative “Stable Song” off his 2007 debut LP “That Sea, The Gambler.”
Isakov (playing Grand Rapids a day after performing at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival) took full advantage of his space on the evening, utilizing the full band sound at times, performing all acoustic around one mic at others, completely solo for a few tunes, and totally in the dark for “The Universe,” a delicate and timely track off 2013 success, “The Weatherman.”
And whether his vocals were layered with reverb or clean and pure, his eloquent lyrics bounced off every corner of the old church, leaving attendees with what was no doubt a memorable evening. Instrumental vagabond guitar virtuoso Danny Black, who grew up with Isakov and played music with him in their formative years, opened the show.
PHOTO GALLERY: Gregory Alan Isakov at Fountain Street Church
Photos by Kendra Kamp