Gregory Alan Isakov Mesmerizes At Ithaca’s State Theater

They say “never miss a Sunday show” and whoever “they” are were right about the packed house turned listening room at the beautiful State Theater of Ithaca for a magical night of music from Gregory Alan Isakov with support from Luke Sital-Singh. The clocks were set back earlier in the morning and the audience was also taken on a trip through time when singer-songwriters ruled the land, everyone hung on each word and the music became part of the environment, like listening to the waterfalls just up the road in Treman State Park.

Isakov commands the stage with such simplicity, like a circa 1962 Bob Dylan, when a personality becomes the music. His showmanship exists only in the respect he has for his bandmates and the humble nature of how he addresses the audience and the nature of his songwriting. It is as if one can hear the wind wailing through the Colorado mountain passes in each harmony drifting through the five pieces of his band over the land Isakov farms and writes on. He is, after all, billed as a farmer first – a most important trade, becoming harder and harder in our current world. However, just as obvious as his love for the land, his touring band captures a mystic and ghostly quality that enriches the often forlorn lyrics. It’s as if the dust bowl of “The Grapes of Wrath” meets Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac stranded under millions of mountain stars with the music of Hank Williams trickling out of a passing train. One could try to categorize Isakov’s music as indie or folk, but there is far more at play and it is a show that must be seen to be believed.

“Oh, highway boys all sleeping in
With their dirty mouths and broken strings
Oh, their eyes are shining like the sea
For you, the queen of San Luis
I’m a ghost of you, you’re a ghost of me
A bird’s-eye view of San Luis.” – Isakov

Photo: Aurora Roe

Isakov was born in Johannesburg and immigrated at the age of seven to the US. He started touring at the age of 16 and released his first album in 2003. His musical career is very interesting and he even dusted of an old song, “I’ll Feed Your Horses,” that he wrote about recording with Brandi Carlile. It was a very tight set that prominently featured two guitars, violin, bass, drums and a few songs with banjo. The band played several songs in the middle of the set around one microphone, which added to the beauty and “old timey” feeling of the evening. Towards the end of the first set, Isakov brought out opening act Sital-Singh for a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” noting that as they walked around Ithaca, NY they both spoke of their passion for “The Boss.”

Photo: Jordan Rucks

Sital-Singh played a beautiful opening solo set, alternating with an acoustic and electric guitar. His stage presence was endearing and fun and he captured the audience with witty banter between songs. Just as with Isakov, it was a complete listening room for Sital-Singh and he definitely made many new fans. The tour continues throughout the Midwest and South, moves abroad for a few shows, and then comes back to the West Coast of the States. Many of the shows are already sold out. You can follow the tour HERE.

SETLIST: DesdemonePlay, Amsterdam, Southern Star, Dark, Dark, Dark, Soldiers Drum, Chemicals, Was I Just Another, I’ll Feed Your Horses, This Empty Northern Hemisphere, Wings in All, Time Will Tell, Saint Valentine, (Unknown) “Our love is hungry and cold”, The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover w/ Luke Sital-Singh), ENCORE: San Luis, The Universe, Liars