On the Saturday of October 22, Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club was the place to be. Why, you ask? Buckle up cowboy.
It was on this date that Kevin Morby took to the iconic venue’s stage as part of the artist’s ongoing tour of his latest album, This Is a Photograph. Morby started the show with a rousing performance of the album’s title track. Despite the fact that the show started at 11pm and Morby’s own tongue-and-cheek admission that he’d never stayed up this late in his life, the live performance breathed new life into songs that had been slightly subdued in studio recordings. The full band, consisting of drums, keys, woodwind, guitar, bass and backing vocals, played with what can only be described as musical verve. Not only did they play skillfully and passionately, but you could tell from their animated expressions that they truly love getting to play these songs night after night. The whole ensemble’s rockabilly attitudes were showcased with songs like A Random Act of Kindness and Rock Bottom, while tender heartstrings were plucked with the rendition of Stop Before I Cry.
Throughout the performance, Morby entertained just as enthusiastically as he sang and strummed. At one point he even jumped off the stage and into the front of the audience, singing along with the fans of his seven album career who were clearly having the time of their lives. Morby enhanced his showman image with a gold cowboy jacket complete with sparkling fringe that swayed along to the music. In full honesty, my first thought when I saw the gold coat was of folk singer-songwriter Phil Ochs’ gold lamé suit he wore for his performance at Carnegie Hall in 1970. Ochs’ suit is widely seen as a testament to capitalism’s effect artists, causing them to stray from genuine self-expression in search of a sensationalized and marketable image, but I hope Kevin Morby was just having fun.
The show progressed backwards through Morby’s discography with each song sounding as timeless as the last. There are some concerts where you leave thinking that the recording studio magic must’ve been the secret to the artists success and others where you leave in awe of music that somehow became fresh after listening to them on headphones for hours on repeat. After my experience at the 9:30 Club this past Saturday, Kevin Morby is most definitely one of the latter.
Written by Zoe Klausner.