The Jayhawks released their first, self-titled album in 1986, and this year they celebrated the 30th anniversary of that release by putting out their ninth album, Paging Mr. Proust. The band, which to a large extent led the vanguard in the alt country movement of the early 90s with their classic albums Hollywood Town Hall (1992) and Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995), has seen some line-up changes over the years (in particular the exit, then return, then exit again of founding member Mark Olson), and they haven’t always been the most prolific (taking anywhere from three to five years between releases), but they have been consistent in quality led by singer and guitarist Gary Louris. Paging Mr. Proust takes some more experimental directions at times than the band’s past work, but it continues the strong musical legacy for which the band is known. The band began touring for the album soon after its release, and on Saturday they made a DC stop at the Lincoln Theatre.
The band opened the show with a classic, “Waiting For the Sun” from Hollywood Town Hall, the song which landed the band their only US top 40 hit (#20) and introduced them to the wider world. They didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling in the last century, though, and the majority of the set came from the new album and 2003’s Rainy Day Music. The band took two brief detours into the earlier post-Olson albums, with “Haywire” from 1997’s Sound of Lies and “Somewhere in Ohio” from 2000’s Smile, but the largest representation of older material came from Tomorrow the Green Grass with “Nothing Left to Borrow,” “Blue,” and “I’d Run Away.” Highlights among the new songs included “Lovers of the Sun,” “Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces,” and, oddly enough, one of the most unusual tracks on the album, “Comeback Kids.”
For the encore, Louris came to the stage solo and performed acoustic renditions of “Settled Down Like Rain” from Hollywood Town Hall and “Angelyne” from Rainy Day Music. The rest of the band returned for one more new song, “I’ll Be Your Key,” and then closed out the night with one of their biggest songs, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” from Smile and “Tailspin,” also from Rainy Day Music.
Folk Uke, the duo of Cathy Guthrie and Amy Nelson, opened the show, and also joined The Jayhawks for backing vocals on “Tampa to Tulsa” and “Angelyne.”