The Head and the Heart played with genre expectations, created surprises on The Uptown


The Head and the Heart keeps the beat going with another cinematically lit track. // Photo by Michael Cripe

No one expected folk-rock sextet The Head and the Heart to deliver a cinematic experience when it came to Uptown Theater earlier this week, but they did it anyway.

Expectations were set when raucous English singer-songwriter Jade Bird delivered an impressive opening act, swinging between searing cuts like “I Get No Joy” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac, while dropping make way for more sincere and calm moments.

Each lyric received the attention it deserved but resulted in an evening introduction with little surprises.

In retrospect, Jade Bird’s impressive yet confident opening act couldn’t have been a better appetizer for the main course that flashed onto the stage at 9 p.m.

But if the band’s Uptown reveal can be described as a “twinkle,” then their launch song, “Every Shade of Blue,” was an explosion of color. As the room was drowned in deep blues that lined lyrics like “It’s been a long year, the wrong year, to be left alone,” it became clear and comforting that the night was just beginning.

Fans familiar with the music of the eclectic group may not be as familiar with their gigs and the pace at which they cut through the hits. “Every Shade of Blue” morphed into “Don’t Show Your Weakness”, which quickly turned into the pop-infused “Hurts (But It Goes Away)”.

Not a single break came between the first six songs of the set. Pausing between conversations is standard practice for most bands The Head and the Heart shares a genre with, so it was refreshing – and a nice surprise – to see the emphasis on fast pace. Of course, the evening would surely have been sour without at least one or two brief discussions.

Violinist and singer Charity Rose Thielen, whose hair almost resembled a twisted pink and blue popsicle, noted that it was “surreal to be back” after a long COVID-induced touring hiatus that kept The Head and the Heart (and the rest of the music industry) out of the way. “Grounded” is the best way to describe the atmosphere at the time, as Uptown let out a collective sigh and cheer, knowing they were back in the presence of their favorite mish-mash rock outfit.

Thielen’s moments of levity were matched only by his vocal rhythms, which pierced through the already excellent vocal performances of Jonathan Russell and Matt Gervais. His chimes on tracks like “Tiebreaker” constantly brought the crowd to life, but continued to take the pulse later in hard hitters like “Honeybee.”

That’s where that compelling cinematic line from The Head and the Heart’s live broadcast appeared. While “Ghosts” might swing through the show like a spectral wrecking ball, “Shadows” would serve as proof that the band could successfully rebuild true serenity.

Head and the Heart’s answer to a genre plagued by identical gigs is sonic variety, but also solid rhythm within that variety. The night in Uptown was lively, even with a three-track encore to round out the two-hour, 22-song set.

With daring lighting choices that danced with the ever-spinning sound wheel produced by The Head and the Heart, the night of the week felt more like a movie — one Kansas City has waited two years to see.


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