The Head and the Heart lit up the stage Friday night in Reno for the first show on their most recent tour. The popular American Folk band is one of the groups stopping in Reno on the way to Coachella, including Empire of the Sun, Kehlani, the Avalanches and Tacocat. Judging by the adoring reaction of Friday’s The Head and the Heart show, their Coachella sets are bound to be big hits.
The Seattle band has come a long way since their last performance in the Biggest Little City a little over three years ago at the Knitting Factory Concert House downtown. Going from playing in a small local venue to the Grand Theatre in the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, the band members seem to carry a world of experience on their shoulders.
Before the Head and the Heart took the stage, Dreamers, an up-and-coming band from L.A., attempted to warm-up the crowd. After the first couple songs, a lot of noise and an overwhelmingly heavy synth, it was a miracle the audience wasn’t deaf. The group did regain themselves after playing their hit single, “Sweet Disaster,” with a catchy melody perfect for singing along and an added amount of rockstar head flips from the three men onstage: Nick Wold, Nelson and Jacob Wick.
This wasn’t a case where you leave the theater having enjoyed the opening act almost as much as the band you came to see. Dreamers was good, but not memorable. If anything, the audience was even more excited for the main act.
The stage was simple and familiar feeling, left open wide for the band members to move around easily. Various house plants and shrubs gave it a calm, home-like feel, while a neon sign reading “Signs of Light,” the name of their most–recent album, complemented the color-changing orbs of light in various places across the set.
The ensemble kicked off the show with their popular hit “All We Ever Knew,” followed by the equally upbeat ode to Los Angeles “City of Angels.” Both were from their new album, setting the show in full swing.
The crowd, which didn’t quite fill the entire GSR venue, was lively but not obnoxious, clapping along to the rhythm of their favorite songs and belting out fan favorites like “Ghosts” and “Lost in My Mind.”
Lead vocalist, Jonathon Russell, seemed to guide the crowd along the familiar words of “Down in the Valley,” one of the bands most popular songs. “That’s how you do it! You guys are crushing it!”
The artistic transition between “Oh My Dear” and “I Don’t Mind” was the most musically intricate transition of the evening. Jon Russell, floating on the dark stage in a single spotlight, soulfully serenaded the audience, and plucked away at his guitar as the band re-joined him onstage for the more upbeat sound of “I Don’t Mind.”
It was the perfect example of the band’s ability to mix heartfelt, mellow, classic ballads reminiscent of their earlier music with the newer “indie rock” sound mixed into their new album.
The audience erupted in applause whenever lead female vocalist and violinist Charity Rose Thielen belted out her solos and the group came back for a well-deserved encore with “Library Magic.” The last song of the evening, and arguably the most popular track the band has produced from their first album, “Rivers and Roads,” had almost the whole audience up on their feet singing along.
Despite challenges late last year when their co-lead singer and guitarist Josiah Johnson took a break from the band to recover from addiction, the band felt nothing but whole and connected onstage, seeming to all run off the same heartbeat, never once appearing tired or bored of even their oldest songs.