Being the good old Jersey Boy that he is, Pete Yorn has been known to cover at least one Bruce Springsteen tune whenever he does a show. This was not to be the case on this particular night in Seattle at the Showbox Theatre. He did, however, kick off his set with a few bars of Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” before scrapping it saying, “We don’t know this one anyway.” The show would close some two hours later with a cover of the Rolling Stones “Dead Flowers” in the usual Springsteen spot.
That’s the great thing about seeing Pete Yorn live – you never know what you’re going to get. The only guarantee is a solid, non-stop night of great rock and roll with the always-surprising cover tunes balancing nicely with Yorn’s own great songs.
One of the last of a seemingly dying breed of great singer-songwriters, Pete Yorn is a curious case to be sure. A couple of years ago he seemed positively poised to take over the world with his critically acclaimed debut album Musicforthemorningafter and it’s great singles “Life On A Chain” and “Strange Condition.” When it’s follow up Day I Forgot failed to deliver the same spark, the future seemed far less sure.
Yorn’s new album, the much better Nightcrawler, represents a return to form, exploring sonic terrain that goes far beyond the folky, singer-songwriter territory of his first two records. Yorn’s music may be progressing at a nice clip, but is still cut primarily from the working class romanticism of the Springsteen school with the just the right touch of jangly R.E.M.-styled folk-pop.
Onstage, however, Yorn’s emphasis was decidedly on the rock and roll side of things.
Concentrating on songs from all three records (the tour is billed as the “Morning Day & Night” tour and focuses on the idea of the three releases as a trilogy of sorts), Yorn himself shifted comfortably between acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, and of course vocals, backed by a more than capable band.
Although the new material was well received, particularly during a raucous cover of Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation,” it was the more familiar radio hits like “Life On A Chain” that brought the biggest cheers from the sold out crowd. For the encores, Yorn dusted off the Stones “Dead Flowers” cover before launching into a dramatically reworked version of his own “Strange Condition.”
As a performer, Yorn has also grown much more polished since I last saw him shortly after the release of his debut album. Taking a cue from his idol Springsteen, Yorn wrapped his songs around engaging and often humorous stories. The two-hour set was also paced expertly, balancing the more rocking tracks with the occasional ballad. Near constant touring has apparently paid itself a dividend for Pete Yorn as his theatre-sized show crackled with an arena-sized sense of professionalism.
Opening the show was Aqualung, who easily won over the crowd with their brand of Brit-Pop, falling squarely into the Coldplay/Keane category (and despite the name, sounding nothing like Jethro Tull). There was also a brief set on piano from Charlotte Martin, whose Tori Amos meets Alanis Morrisette vocals and long haired Lady Godiva good looks were received politely, but otherwise provided a good reason to queue up for the bar and the bathroom on what would prove to be a very long night.