At the final of three sold-out shows at The Fillmore, Sunday, Seattle folkies The Head and the Heart’s keyboardist Kenny Hensley was positioned far stage-left — out of the prime real-estate controlled by vocalist Jonathan Russell and vocalist-guitarist Josiah Johnson.
The band may want to rethink that strategy, as it is Hensley’s flourishes that set the Head and the Heart apart from a throng of similar artists. On tunes where Hensley got to shine – the fun keyboard romp “Ghosts,” the ‘70s-infused “Couer d’Alene,” and a few others – the crowd was moving. The rest of the set was spent waiting for the appearance of “Down in the Valley.”
The Head and the Heart’s other strengths are songwriting and the sound of its three vocalists (including Charity Rose Thielsen) singing together. That shined brightest on songs like “Grandfather’s Charm” and “Winter’s Song,” where the three each had a verse to themselves and harmonized in between.
The band’s weakness was its setlist arrangement. It didn’t take long to realize that most of its songs follow the same formula: Start quietly, build for a minute, crescendo, get quiet again and finish. By the time the show concluded with “Down in the Valley,” the Head and the Heart’s “it” song, the tune did not stand out above the other ones. They should have opened with it.
There were two openers on this night. The Moondoggies, also from Seattle, played the blues and southern rock not unlike Lynyrd Skynyrd. The five-piece band opened all three nights and was very entertaining until a few extended jams bogged down the middle of their set.
San Francisco’s The Family Crest, which performed only at Sunday’s show, outshined the headliners. When the 10-member troupe (which features a long list of revolving musicians who fill in on various nights) walked onto the stage wielding, among traditional instruments, two violins and a cello, many may have been expecting chamber pop.
But Ra Ra Riot these folks were not. Instead the band delivered a wallop of rollicking punk. Color-coordinated in all black, with a few red accents on the ladies in the group, The Family Crest had the energy of Arcade Fire with an acoustic bent.