Kevin Morby is releasing his new album in just a couple weeks (out June 16), but you’d forgive those in attendance on Friday, May 26 during the sold out show at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia if they were unaware. The album didn’t even getting a passing mention from the stage, even as the band filled half the 80 minute set with it’s songs. That is of course unless you count Morby’s stark white suit, decorated with bold black musical notes. Across the back the album’s title, City Music, was spelled out in sparkling jewels, while the lapels included his initials. An unorthodox but rather fashionable way of getting the message across.
Regardless, there was no need for the announcement. Most in the crowd seemed well aware of the music that was on it’s way, to the point of singing along with the couple of singles that have already made their public appearance. The set got off to a wailing good start with the title track off the new album. Morby played a dueling guitar lead with Albany’s Meg Duffy, who released her own stellar album earlier this year under the Hand Habits moniker. Her soft voice and precise playing were the perfect foil for Morby’s monotone and brasher guitar strokes throughout the night.
The set explored material from the full breadth of Morby’s catalog. The energy peaked with “Destroyer,” where the rhythm section, Nick Kinsey on drums and Cyrus Gengras on bass, locked into a tight groove while Duffy soared with slide guitar leads. They kept the energy high with “I Have Been to the Mountain” and “Harlem River” featuring more heady guitar action. It slowly mellowed out from there, before closing with the quietest moment, Morby playing solo on “Beautiful Strangers.”
Though non-traditional with the album promotion, Morby promised the crowd that they would honor the old concert tradition of coming back out for a few more songs if the crowd clapped after they left the stage. And they didn’t disappoint, playing two fan favorites off of last year’s breakout album, Singing Saw, and then finishing it off with a bombastic cover of Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.”
John Andrews, who we last saw drumming in Quilt, was fronting his own band, The Yawns, in the opening slot. They played a short but exciting set featuring material off their recent release, Bad Posture. Lazy, slinky, psychedelic folk rock, songs like “Drivers” and “Old News” gave way to the engrossing set closer “Audrey” that had the crowd desperate for more.
Kevin Morby Setlist:
City Music, Crybaby, 1234, Aboard My Train, Destroyer, I Have Been to the Mountain, Harlem River, Come to Me Now, Parade, Downtown Lights, Beautiful Strangers
E: Cut Me Down, Dorothy, Rock and Roll