A great concert changes how you listen to the band’s music. All of a sudden, when you play a song, it comes alive in a way it never did before. And that’s what happened when I saw The Head and The Heart. When I listen to “Winter Song” —the moment the gentle yet powerful voice of Charity Rose Thielen comes in (a minute 19 seconds into it)—I hear the wild mix of enthusiasm and wonder of the crowd that day. When I watch this video of Josiah Johnson playing guitar in a garage, I also see him alone on the stage, just after saying, “Can you believe they didn’t have cups backstage?,” taking a shot from the bottle, and singing the most intimate song of the night. And I still can’t listen to “Rivers and Roads” without getting chills.

That night, The Head and The Heart had people clapping at their first song, “Shake.” But they didn’t have that much energy. A few songs in, they admitted they were a bit tired from Halloween after having stayed up so late. “Makes for a rough day,” explained Jonathan Russell. Johnson tried to run around the stage clapping for one of the next songs, but it wasn’t the right night for that.

When they played “Winter Song,” the more mellow—and better—part of the concert began. With the help of Kenny’s piano-playing and Tyler’s drumming, the music still felt loud and active. But the Head and the Heart proved that you don’t need to make a huge scene on stage to have a powerful show. There were no rapidly changing lights, background visuals, or passionate speeches about loving Boston. And there didn’t need to be.

The concert, from this point on, was intimate and moving. When they played “Rivers and Roads,” many people swayed back and forth with arms around each other. And during the encore—the classic moment when a band leaves the stage, the lights stay off, and after five minutes of applause, makes another grand appearance—they dedicated a song to a couple who married a week ago. “The world’s just spinning / A little too fast / If things don’t slow down soon we might not last. / So just for the moment, let’s be still,” they sang. And during the entire song, except for swaying back and forth with each other, the crowd did remain still.

They ended with the song, “Down in the Valley,” a soft song with vocal harmonies the crowd either knew or learned that day. It’s a song perhaps about leaving, about trying new things, about a longing for some kind of stability and peace in a forever changing world. Or maybe about finding that stability down in the valley with whisky rivers. Whatever the meaning, the last words of the song—and I can’t really explain why—seemed perfect for the end of the show and still resonate with me after the show. “Lord have mercy on my rough and rowdy ways.”

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