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Concert Recap: Mason Jennings, The Pines

Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 17:11

Mason Jennings CD review

All Eyes Media

Mason Jennings

Mason Jennings and The Pines played to a stagnant crowd at Crescent Ballroom Tuesday night.

A lot of non-Arizonan state pride seemed to circulate the room, as I overheard people talking about their roots and Jennings latest album being titled Minnesota, one of the many places he grew up. I'd say the largest percentage of the crowd were Minnesotans, based solely on the observation that "Minnesota" was shouted randomly throughout the night. Other than that, the crowd was docile (maybe dying of heat stroke in their flannels?), waiting until Jennings prompted them in the encore to sing along to Woody Guthrie's "Hobos Lullaby," which sounded disastrously dissonant from where I stood. However, those few measures of sour notes were the one exception to a night of heartfelt pared down performances by Jennings, The Pines and utility player Jacob Hansen.

The Pines haven't been to Phoenix in nearly a decade, says co-guitarist David Huckfelt. Maybe the distance has made the heart grow fonder because they really gave a gorgeous performance highlighted by their husky vocals and the occasional slide guitar solo (as well as an occasional third player working the keys). Highlights of the set included: "Light Under the Door," "Shine On Moon," "Pray Tell" and "Shiny Shoes."

Jennings, who recorded all of the instrumentation on his latest album arranged the show to recreate the feel of the recording process for Minnesota. For most of the show, onstage was solely Jennings and his utility player Jacob Hanson swapping instruments (Jennings played everything but bass). About three-fourths of the way through the set, The Pines came onstage to give a full band feel to songs like "Living in the Moment" and "Jackson Square"

With The Pines onstage, Jennings covered, or rather he sat in and played drums and sang along to, the band's "Lonesome Tremelo Blues." It was during this song I realized the vibe of the show seemed to be restrained, most evident in The Pines' Benson Ramsey's brief guitar solo. This was, after all, a night of songwriting where lyrics trump energy. However, the crowd was pretty stagnant save a die-hard (maybe tipsy) fan. Ramsey finally got his solo in on "City of Ghosts."

Jennings told crowd he dropped a pick down the piano and may have broken it, which was initially disappointing as a majority of tracks on his recent release, Minnesota, are piano-driven ballads. However, he rearranged a few for guitar and banged out "Clutch" on a smaller set of keys.

There were a few blips in the show, from Jennings' being piano-less to forgetting a word or note to songs like "Raindrops on the Kitchen Floor" and "Clutch." When you have nine full-length albums like Jennings, it's forgivable although it took a few minutes for him to get "Battle of Paul and Sheila" (it was the nine year anniversary of Sen. Wellstone and his wife's end in a fatal plane crash) started. "I wanna know it so bad," he said to an encouraging crowd that suggested "Free Bird" and "Ulysses" instead.

Then there was the paradoxical buzz kill-turned-most energetic performance of the night when Jennings plugged in his 12-string guitar for "Ain't No Friend Of Mine" and right before the first verse (which is insanely groovy and had the crowd locked in) the plug fell out. And somewhere in there, Jennings started to cover "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones. While speaking of energy, Jennings' strongest vocal performance of the night was on "Be Here Now."

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