The Head and the Heart has been crazy busy since making its Boston debut back in February, when it opened a pair of shows for Dr. Dog at the Paradise. The Seattle band’s self-titled debut album has since received a proper nationwide release on Sub Pop, selling some 70,000 copies and propelling it to appearances at Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, the Newport Folk Festival and Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Things have continued to fall into place for THATH on its first full headlining tour, and its show at Royale on Friday was just one of many sell-outs it’s scored across the country. This is all an awful lot to happen to a young band so quickly, and in these cases the hype can often outpace and overshadow a group’s development. To THATH’s credit, they’re clearly making the most of the opportunity, gigging nonstop and making a strong connection with its rapidly growing fanbase.
THATH led off its first Boston headlining set with the album-opening 1-2-3 punch of “Cats and Dogs,” “Coeur d’Alene” and “Ghosts,” a tactic that instantly sucked in the capacity crowd and serendipitously enlisted it as a makeshift seventh member, adding an atmospheric layer to the band’s already stellar vocal harmonies.
Though Jonathan Russell stood center stage, trading off lead vocal duties with Josiah Johnson, Charity Rose Thielen was the overwhelming crowd favorite, receiving resounding approval with every violin lick and vocal verse. Fans sang along enthusiastically to straightforward takes on “Lost in My Mind,” “Rivers and Roads” and the show-closing “Down in the Valley,” and attentively absorbed a diverse trio of new tunes: a bouncy new jam and the tender “Josh McBride” mid-set, and Russell’s solo take on “Gone” during the encore.
This wasn’t the tightest set you’ll see from a band playing this brand of straightforward, folky pop, but it was a very promising one. THATH clearly doesn’t take its early success for granted, and it will be exciting to see how the band grows from here.
In the main support slot, Thao Nguyen was backed by an expanded version of the Get Down Stay Down, complete with keys and a trumpet player. It was a typically enthralling performance from Thao, who thrashed on guitar throughout the band’s 10-song set. She beat-boxed her way into the instantly recognizable “Bag of Hammers,” laid aside her guitar for a slinky rendition of “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and received a helping hand from the other bands on the bill during a percussion-driven rendition of “Beat.” Unfortunately there was no new material to be heard that might indicate where Thao and company are headed on the follow-up to their 2009 album Know Better Learn Faster.
Salt Lake City band the Devil Whale impressed in their early evening opening set, concentrating on songs from its latest album, Teeth, during its Boston debut.
The Head and the Heart’s Setlist:
Cats and Dogs -> Coeur d’Alene / Ghosts / Honey Come Home / “New Jam” / Heaven Go Easy on Me / Josh McBride / Lost in My Mind / Winter Song / Sounds Like Hallelujah / Rivers and Roads // Gone (Jonathan solo) / Down in the Valley
Body / When We Swam / Bag of Hammers / Beat (Health, Life and Fire) / Cool Yourself / Feet Asleep / You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me / Fear and Convenience / The Give / Know Better Learn Faster
The Head and the Heart:
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down:
The Devil Whale: