It’s hard to imagine that a large chunk of Blind Pilot’s catalog was written while the band was just a duo, busking in the UK and touring the West Coast by bicycle. At a packed Paradise on Tuesday, the now-six-piece Oregon group was a finely tuned machine, with each member playing an essential role around every gorgeous turn, whether the song was old or new.
Touring behind its standout second album, We are the Tide, Blind Pilot eased into the night with the breezy “Keep You Right” and the more intimate one-two combo of “Two Towns from Me” and “I Buried a Bone.” The band went on to cover most of the ground from Tide and its compelling 2008 debut, 3 Rounds and a Sound, in its well-paced – and enthusiastically received – headlining set.
If the music wasn’t so damn engaging, Blind Pilot’s exceedingly high likability factor could easily slide into a turn-off. The band emits the one-big-happy-family vibe perhaps as genuinely as any on the road – touring in close quarters for months on end can get to any group, but it’s hard to imagine what these guys (and gal) argue about while traveling the country in their converted blue school bus. Its fans clearly buy into the community concept as well, saving their loudest applause not for front man Israel Nebeker but for multi-instrumentalist Dave Jorgensen, who lit up the room each time he picked up his trumpet.
Though selections from 3 Rounds provided the emotional backbone of the set, Tide‘s more diverse palette provided some of the night’s more interesting musical moments. Just months after the album’s release, the new songs are already morphing in subtle, unexpected directions. “Always” took on a haunting undertone with some strong percussion work, and the keys on “I Know” fueled a decidedly funky turn.
The show built to a crescendo with “One Red Thread” and “We are the Tide” to close the main set, as Kati Claborn jumped up to share the drum set and Nebeker led the crowd through a raucous clap-along. He then took the stage solo to begin the encore and was eventually joined by his bandmates while worked through “The Bitter End.” Then it was on to a rousing cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” before Blind Pilot cemented its connection with the audience by unplugging and venturing into the crowd for a hushed sing-along during “3 Rounds and a Sound.”
Opener Gregory Alan Isakov proved to be an inspired selection and could easily pass as Nebeker’s brother – in looks, demeanor and songwriting acumen. Backed by a full band, Isakov’s set was amped up a bit from his more intimate headlining turn at Johnny D’s back in February. The criminally underrated Colorado singer and songwriter touched on crowd-pleasers from 2009’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere (“That Moon Song,” “Virginia May”) in a 40-minute set that was heavy on new material that left me even more hungry for his next set of studio recordings.
Blind Pilot’s Setlist:
Keep You Right / Two Towns From Me / I Buried a Bone / Always / Half Moon / Things I Cannot Recall / The Story I Heard / The Colored Night / Get it Out / Just One / Go On, Say It / Oviedo / I Know / New York / One Red Thread / We are the Tide // The Bitter End / The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down / 3 Rounds and a Sound
Gregory Alan Isakov: