The Jayhawks: Hollywood House Of Blues

Here come The Jayhawks, toting the redemptive power of rock'n'roll...

There is something to be said about the redemptive power of music. It can be magical – exhilarating and uplifting. And if there is one band for whom this rings true, it’s The Jayhawks.

Over ten years The Jayhawks have been through their share of grief – sparkling albums and disappointing sales, a fracturing line-up, including the departure of vocalist and founding member Mark Olson. But still, when Gary Louris launches into ‘Smile’ he sings, “Smile when you’re down and out/You don’t really have a problem in your hour of despair”.

And tonight, this is the mantra of The Jayhawks. Over a set that stretches for the better part of two hours, they shine. Moment after moment is stirring, from the three-part harmonies in ‘Better Days’ to the chiming Rickenbacker in ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’. The country tinges of ‘A Break In The Clouds’ to their cover of Charlie Rich’s masterpiece ‘Life’s Little Ups And Downs’. Louris’s mid-Western affability is infectious, and by the end of the set the crowd is singing along to every word of ‘Blue’.

At times, on ‘Real Light’ and a version of Eric Carmen’s schmaltz classic ‘All By Myself’, The Jayhawks veer into classic rock territory. But then Louris flashes all the right moves, standing atop his amplifier and pulling out his finest Neil Young licks on ‘Waiting For The Sun’. And the debt to Young is acknowledged in a stirring encore of ‘Winterland’.

Closing with ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’, Louris dives off the stage, handing his guitar to a friend in the audience, who promptly rips out a note perfect lead break to finish the song. But then it’s that sort of spirit that makes The Jayhawks so uplifting to watch. “Does anybody know how to have fun?” sings Louris, “‘Cause I’m gonna be a big star someday?”

Jason Reynolds