Review: Hamilton Leithauser, Kevin Morby, & Jess Williamson Delight the Vic with a Fall Mixer

This past Thursday,  Hamilton Leithauser, Kevin Morby and Jess Williamson came together to the Vic Theatre for a Fall Mixer. The whole idea of the tour, mixing together the 2020 release tours were cut short due to the pandemic, just feels right. All three performers have a way with their craft that gels well together and as the night would show, makes for an engaging and communal experience.

Jess Williamson‘s presence on stage was met with immediate awe. She opened the night perfectly with “Sorceress”, a song that encapsulates so much of Williamson’s sound and lyricism. Bittersweet notes of a teetering relationship and even though the line “Yes, there’s a little magic in my hat But I’m no sorceress,” underlines one’s limitations in such a relationship, the same can not be said of the performance.Every moment felt magical and entrancing, setting the Fall Mixer’s bar very high.

While her short setlist nestled on Sorceress, there was plenty of love spread around her oeuvre. “I See the White” from Cosmic Wink was a nice addition and a new song at the center of the set was a highlight. The lights sifted to warm red glow and let the audience absorb it. “I think I’m going to call it ‘Inferno'” she noted. The solo  set with “Pictures of Flowers”, a single release almost immediately after Sorceress, leaving the audience in it’s

Kevin Morby followed up that performance with a riveting one of his own. There was no time wasted as his explosive “Congratulations” had the crowd grooving along with its undeniable catchiness. His sound is definitely raised the energy of the crowd as delves into more rocking guitars and solos that you can help but dig into. However, Williamson coming back out to perform on “Sundowner” early on in the set, you could tell just how well rounded Morby’s music is.

Morby’s set touched upon his entire catalog, picking out some of the most recognizable songs. Whether he was dedicating “City Music to Chicago, which he continually praised as one of his top two cities to play in (the other being San Fransisco) or sharing a new song, Morby was absolutely on fire the whole night. That new song, which was listed as “Five Easy Pieces” on the setlist, had the crowd enthralled. As the track reached it’s peak Morby launched his microphone into the air. The audience held their breathe in that moment and sighed with relief as he caught it, gliding down to his seat on the stage’s floor.

As the set winded to a close, Morby let the audience take the reigns choose their path. They loudly opted for “Parade” instead of “Dorthy” and Morby enthusiastically obliged. The set ended with the breathtaking “Harlem River”, one of the few times the crowd fell completely silent and took in the  majesty of the night.

With the show continually getting more and more exuberant, it made sense that Hamilton Leithauser’s time would see the Fall Mixer’s theme at its most showy. His sound is so iconic, coming from his days with The Walkmen to his solo work, there is an such  bright and energetic feeling to them. Add to that Leithauser’s natural storytelling ability and you have the most Fall Mixer type of set. Throughout the night he prefaced songs with their origins and themes, giving them context that only amplified their emotive quality. The possibly true, possibly tall tales of an older woman Leithauser met at a park with his kids made the grandiose nature of “The Stars of Tomorrow” make some sense and the directness of story behind “The Bride’s Dad” only underlined its sadness.

The set list focused on Leithauser’s collaborations with Rotsam and his latest release The Loves of Our Lives, with the latter getting a large chunk of the attention. “When the Truth is…” saw Leithauser focused entirely on singing, letting his guitar take a break as he belted that song out like no other.  Unsurprisingly, “A 1000 Times” got the most intense reaction from the crowd. It’s a modern classic if there ever was one as it’s tale of unrequited love bursts out with such emotion from Leithauser that his voice reaches those raggedly rasps he’s known for. The inclusion of Morby and Williamson coming out to harmonize with the song’s memorable chorus “A thousand times, a thousand times, I’ve had that dream a thousand times”  made the occasion all the more grand. Every time

The truest essence of the Fall Mixer came at the shows encore, where all three members of the tour came together to play their songs in their entirety. The trio looked at their most relaxed here, ready to unite their voices for the final songs. The Kevin Morby and Hamilton Leithauser collaboration “Virginia Beaches” rang out with all the vigor it deserves, followed by Jess Williamson‘s beautiful “Wind on Tin” and Morby’s “Peace Morning”. It truly felt like a communal experience especially as musicians requested for the lights to come up and shine on the crowd. The mixer came to a close with Leithauser taking pictures of those on stage and off and the lights shining on audience as they were serenaded by Kevin Morby’s ode to those who we’ve lost too soon: “Beautiful Strangers”. In that moment it felt like a expertly crafted communal experience, sending us off such an emotional and touching song.

All photos by Julian Ramirez

Julian Ramirez
Julian Ramirez
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