Every night I’ve spent at the Sylvee has been memorable, so it was no surprise The Head and the Heart’s Oct. 3 show added to my long list of great live music experiences in Madison.
The Head and the Heart returned to Madison for a two-night stay on their “Every Shade of Blue” 2022 tour and successfully sold out the Sylvee night one. Joined by 35-year-old Texas artist Shakey Graves, the two put on an incredible show packed with two and a half hours of quality music and great vibes — creating a night to remember.
The Head and the Heart is all thanks to one summer eve’s open mic night in Seattle, where band members met and formed the six person alternative folk band They are on tour for their fifth studio album “Every Shade of Blue” which was released in April. The band created a raw, reflective and vulnerable album — fitting for a series of songs written during isolation. However, the album departs from their recognizable folk roots, and many songs lean towards a more pop, upbeat sound.
I’m a sucker for all live music, but I was particularly blown away by Shakey Graves' remarkable vocal and stage performance. Alejandro Rose-Garcia, known as Shakey Graves, started the night off right with an electrifying opening performance. The audience was captivated as soon as the first note played, though few were previously familiar with his songs.
He began his set alone with only a guitar as accompaniment, but after a few songs three other band members – Patrick O'Connor, Jon Shaw and Chris Boosahda – joined him. Graves has a unique musical style, with a blend of blues, folk, alternative and rock I haven’t heard from other musicians. He was one of the first artists to perform at the Sylvee back in 2018, and he delivered a truly impressive performance, which was a perfect full circle moment.
Graves played his more well known songs including “Roll the Bones,” “Late July” and “Pansy Waltz,” and interacted with the audience throughout his set. I thought Shakey Graves' most memorable song was his live rendition of “Dearly Departed” which was filled with emotion and had everyone enthusiastically clapping along. The man standing behind me captured everyone’s feelings when he exclaimed, “I have never heard of this guy but he can rock!”
If you haven’t heard of Shakey Graves, I highly recommend you give him a listen. He delivered one of the best opening acts I have ever seen.
The Head and the Heart
At about 9 p.m., the lights dimmed, the stage lit up in a deep blue, and six Head and the Heart members emerged from the fog in front of a sold out Sylvee crowd. They began the show with their title track “Every Shade of Blue” and later transitioned into one of their biggest hits “All We Ever Knew,” a catchy, yet heartbreaking song about love.
The biggest win of the night was their diverse setlist, which featured songs from all their albums and encompassed all their biggest hits. Because "Every Shade of Blue" is a relatively new album and not as commercially successful as prior albums, there were many songs the audience didn’t know well.
However, the addition of “All We Ever Knew,” “Honeybee,” “Down in the Valley” and many other tracks off of previous albums mixed up the energy and engaged the crowd. They played seven songs off their recent album and 12 songs from previous records. Although their new tracks are undoubtedly good and still gaining traction, the crowd really responded to classic hits from early in The Head and the Heart’s career.
The band also included a beautiful acoustic song written amid the pandemic called “In the Orchard.” The rest of the band left the stage as guitarists and vocalists Matt Gervais and Charity Rose Thielen enchanted the venue with the unreleased song.
The energy of The Head and the Heart was constant throughout the show, and it was clear they were enjoying performing again following a two year tour hiatus because of the pandemic.
Later in the show, the band experienced some technical difficulties during their song “Ghosts,” but the fans picked up when their microphones went out and finished the rest of the song. It was a really touching moment between the band and the crowd.
The encore songs were the showstoppers of the night, with their three closing songs being “GTFU,” “Virginia (Wind in the Night)” and “Rivers and Roads.”
“Virginia (Wind in the Night)” is my favorite track off the new album, and it was clear everyone around me loved it just as much. Closing out the show with their most famous song, “Rivers and Roads” had everyone embracing their loved ones, singing every word and even shedding a few tears.
Ever since its release in 2011, I have been dying to see this song performed live, and it did not disappoint. It is riddled with emotional lyrics but also representative of the band’s growth, as it is still their most defining hit. It was the perfect end to an unforgettable show. Another great night at the Sylvee, and another band I recommend seeing live.
The Head and the Heart are continuing their “Every Shade of Blue” tour in Missouri, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee until Oct. 21.