By Ty Hyten
Seattle’s The Head And The Heart returned to the stage after a four-month hiatus Saturday night at University of Denver’s MusicFest. The past several years have been a whirlwind of touring for the group, playing countless opening spots, festivals and headlining shows all with only one album to their name. Saturday night’s show was finally a large glimpse into plenty of new music from the band, all played with the same energy and beautiful harmonies that have kept fans coming back show after show.
I walked from a beautiful spring evening into the cold concrete hallways of Magness Arena. Small groups of college girls in sundresses mingled in the rather empty corridor, eating popcorn. The arena itself was set up in a fashion where the majority of the crowd was in the stadium seating and the floor was covered with chairs, somewhat of a poorly planned set up for a summer college show with bands like Mayer Hawthorne and The Head And The Heart.
Mayer Hawthorne came on stage to a sizeable but spread-out crowd and played a high-energy set of his Motown inflected R&B music. His smooth vocals were marred by the terrible acoustics of the arena and the volume of the music, but it wasn’t a show ruiner. After seeing Mayer Hawthorne at the Ogden this past October, I came to the show expecting plenty of dancing and singing along, but Saturday’s crowd failed to really come to life. The band played through a number of the hits and one or two from his upcoming album “Where Does This Door Go,” out July 16. Hawthorne put on a fun set but the layout of the venue and the poor sound quality really hindered his magic.
The Head And The Heart followed with an outstanding set, especially given the limits of the venue. Their set moved back and forth from the familiar to the new gracefully and their new music sounded great. Judging from Saturday’s performance their second album will not be a drastic departure from their self-titled album, but more of their perfect harmonies and huge choruses. The crowd came alive during the set, but it just didn’t have the “festival” energy that the evening was billed as. The stage definitely belonged outside and the chairs in storage. The highlight of the evening was the perennial live favorite, “Rivers and Roads” with its standalone vocals, sing-a-longs and explosive singing from vocalist/violinist Charity Rose Thielen. Another standout moment came with Thielen sharing a new song, solo on acoustic guitar. She played to an attentive crowd and seemed to get a bit choked up after receiving large applause and bandmate praise following the song. The night ended with fan favorite “Down in the Valley,” perhaps the best I’ve heard them play it. Their music is such a wonderful live experience and Denver can consider themselves lucky for being the first to hear a lot of their new material.