Mason Jennings returns to form at First Avenue
First things first: Our hats are off to First Avenue this morning for giving the Twin Cities three consecutive nights of sold-out local shows in its Main Room over the weekend. After successful back-to-back homecoming gigs on Friday and Saturday nights by Brother Ali, Mason Jennings filled the room once again for Sunday night's show and treated the packed room to a lengthy and intense set.
When Jennings released his new album back in September, he told City Pages that he was "just so tired of being so quiet." Much like the rock-heavy tracks on Blood of Man , Jennings' set last night was dark and dynamic, ranging from his more typical acoustic folk songs to loud, crashing full-band climaxes. After a career's worth of band lineup changes, Jennings has settled on a winning combination with drummer Brian McLeod, guitarist Jake Hansen, and the return of bassist Chris Morrissey, and the four played off each other effortlessly and fed off one another's energy.
For fans who have been following Jennings from the beginning, Sunday night's set list was a treat -- his new rock songs were woven into a steady stream of old classics like "Butterfly" and "Nothing," with barely any attention paid to his more mainstream and less creative albums like In the Ever or Boneclouds. Those softer acoustic tracks would have seemed out of place at this show, where Jennings and his band seemed eager to ramp up the noise and rock out at every opportunity. Even some of the quieter songs were reworked to incorporate the full band, propelling the show forward with a buzzing momentum.
All told, Jennings and his band played for an hour and forty-five minutes, and even after two encores -- which included all four musicians taking turns singing a cover of the Band's "The Weight" and a longtime fan favorite, "Bullet" -- the crowd still seemed sad to see the giant screen being lowered over the stage. As a fan who has seen at least a dozen of his shows and has at times doubted that his new material would ever compare to his earlier days, Sunday night's was by far the best I had seen in years and renewed my faith in Jennings as an artist and a performer.
Mason Jennings @ First Avenue, November 22 set list:
Blood of Man
Black Wind Blowing
Be Here Now
Your New Man (solo)
Jackson Square (solo)
City of Ghosts
Ain't No Friend of Mine
Ballad for My One True Love
Hospitals and Jails
The Weight (cover)
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