“The world can be shitty,” Kevin Morby said while donning a guitar, “but it’s amazing we can all be in the same room and make a wonderful night together.” Indeed, big white music notes decorated his customized suit, signaling that the music man arrived to bind us. In spite of a full-to-the-very-brim room at Lincoln Hall, the audience took in the concert mostly in silence. Respect and awe made for a pleasant concert, even when some ticket-buyers were crowded out all way to the venue’s doorway.
Morby remarked to the crowd that he’s come through Chicago plenty but “we’ve never seen this many people.” The band started off with Morby’s more energetic songs off of 2017’s City Music: they kicked off with songs like “Crybaby” and “1234,” saving the more contemplative and slower songs, like “Come to Me Now” and “Downtown Lights,” near the end.
He structured his set deliberately. You could sense a beginning, middle, and end to his performance. They also played a good mix of songs from all four of Morby’s solo records, though Still Life singles “Parade” and “All of My Life” still revved up the crowd the most. And it’s hard to understate how quiet the room became during the softer songs, like his cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Colorado Girl.” At times the concert nearly rivaled an intimate Sofar Sounds show.
Like a concise Bob Dylan, he pulled us to his world as a vagabonder through concrete language and his band’s economic musicianship — not to mention Meg Duffy’s guitar chops, whose skill and affinity for rock music’s signature instrument rivals those of Duane Allman himself.
He ended the set with “Beautiful Strangers,” after the band left him so he could strum a major E chord and deliver vivid and visceral lines on recent shootings and killings. But he also came back for an encore, including a particularly enlivening rendition of “Dry Your Eyes” where he ripped a hard solo before ending the night with “Dorothy.”
Kevin Morby is proving to be one of the strongest songwriters of our time with a voice and musicianship that rivals the idols of our past, including Dylan and Leonard Cohen. This high school dropout who moved to New York City with just a suitcase sold out a major venue in one of America’s most populous cities based on constantly writing and performing better—while leaving us excited for whatever he has in store for us next.
Concerts at their best can leave a person feel elevated afterward—you leave feeling as if each one of your steps has bounce—and this was one of them.