Cass McCombs at Great American Music Hall, by Joshua Huver
Cass McCombs (photo: Joshua Huver)

Cass McCombs brought his heavy-hitting, emotionally-charged brand of musicianship to San Francisco on Wednesday, September 14.

The second of his 25-date tour in support of Mangy Love, his ninth disc and first on Anti- Records, hits the Rockies this weekend and wraps up at the end of October in Boston. Accompanying McCombs on the road are a solid group of musicians: Drummer Otto Hauser is a human metronome, keyboardist Frank LoCrasto adds several layers to McCombs’ jangly guitar style, very often punched forward with a walloping bass line from Dan Horne. Joining the Cass McCombs Band onstage for a handful of songs was Alpha Oumar “Bongo” Sidibe, is a traditional drummer from Conakry, Guinea in West Africa.

Cass McCombs at Great American Music Hall, by Joshua Huver

When the lights went down on the stage at 9:35, McCombs, Hauser and Horne were the only members on stage, opening with “Sooner Cheat Death Than Fool Love” off of 2013’s Big Wheel and Others. For the first track off Mangy Love, “Opposite House,” McCombs welcomed LoCrasto and Sidibe to the stage.

“Run Sister Run” featured a stellar breakdown and extended djembe solo from Sidibe and led directly into the next track, “Morning Star,” a return to Big Wheel. Check out footage of “Morning Star” right here:

Going back to Mangy Love, they moved into the onomatopoeic island vibe of “Bum Bum Bum,” which feels like a Toto B-side to “Africa,” and “Medusa’s Outhouse,” the latest single from the new album. Halfway through the 14-song set McCombs dipped back a bit further in his career to 2009’s Catacombs for “Dreams Come True Girl.”

Humor Risk, the second of two albums McCombs released in 2011 features the next track in the set, “Robin Egg Blue” before falling even further into deep cuts with “That’s That” from 2007’s Dropping The Writ. Fitting the tune’s title, the song had some real nice legs at the end of it and the band was locked into a groove, but rather than continuing, they aborted the jam and ended the song rather abruptly.

Going all of the way back to 2003’s A, his first album, “Hospital” was indeed a treat for die-hard fans in the crowd. Following that up with “Not The Way,” a cut from his 2002 EP of the same name, was like classic one-two punch that uprooted the mellow and introspective mood of the evening and doused the audience with feverish screams and excitement.

Cass McCombs at Great American Music Hall, by Joshua Huver

The up-tempo rockabilly tune “Evangeline” from 2015’s A Folk Set Apart: Rarities, B-Sides & Space Junk led the final trio of tunes in the set, including “I’m A Shoe” and “County Line” from Mangy Love and Wit’s End, respectively. The band returned for an encore with “Big Wheel.”

OPne thing that McCombs does extremely well, and especially on Mangy Love, is open a mellow dialogue that surrounds otherwise sharply divided and highly-charged issues of equality, purpose and humanity. He has made a name for himself among the storytelling troubadour tradition, and proved through the timelessness of even his oldest songs that he has a voice worth listening to.

Meg Baird at Great American Music Hall, by Joshua Huver

SF’s own Meg Baird, frontwoman of local rock outfit Heron Oblivion, opened the evening with a soft and gentle set. Utilizing the booming low end of a Dreadnought acoustic guitar posed no problem for her voice, which cut through the sound effortlessly. She plays on a cloud that slowly rolls over the horizon, her voice the gentle yet forceful wind. There were not many early birds when she took the stage just before 8:30, but it wasn’t long before McCombs’ appreciative and intent listening audience were drawn in.