Fellow Canadians Jordan Klassen and Bros. Landreth enlighten CSPS crowd!
Review By Mark Hilton
Photos by Lily Allen-Duenas
Jordan Klassen stood on the tips of his toes as he sang into the microphone, almost as if he was trying to push the notes up and out from the lowest point of his body. When not in front of the microphone, the Canadian singer-songwriter bounced around the CSPS stage, smiling and exchanging glances with his three band mates as they played through a set of Klassen’s chamber-folk pop music on Thursday, May 22.
Klassen’s sound is at once airy, dreamy, and with loud choruses that stick in the ears, in part because they match so well with his softer verses. Equipped with an acoustic and an electric guitar, as well as a ukulele that needed frequent tuning (“this thing only cost $75”), Klassen brought his unique guitar technique to his first performance in Iowa. Eschewing a pick, Klassen instead favored an occasionally percussive, but more often delicate, finger-picked playing style. His guitar playing was accompanied by drummer Simon Bridgewater, whose inspired and inventive drumming laid a foundation for Jocelyn Price’s subtle keyboard and vocal harmonies.
The energy they brought to their playing didn’t abate between songs as Klassen and his cohorts maintained a lively patter with each other, and the audience, on subjects ranging from which celebrities hail from Cedar Rapids to the recent Jay-Z-Solange fight. Still, it was the audience’s enthusiasm for Klassen’s pastoral tunes that resulted in the seldom-seen first act encore.
Fellow Canadians The Bros. Landreth hit the CSPS stage several minutes later. Comprised of brothers Joey (vocals, guitar) and Dave (bass, backing vocals) Landreth, and rounded out by Ryan Voth (drums) and Alex Campbell (keyboards), the quartet brought a blues-inspired alternative country sound to their Iowa debut.
Despite their shared nationality, the two bands mined markedly different musical traditions. For the Bros. Landreth, the resulting sound mixes the aggressive guitar twang of alt-country, folk-rock inspired organ and electric piano, and blues-rooted lyrics to create something that could perhaps be described as Americana. Landreth’s lyrics hit upon the blues tropes of sought after love, subsequent heartbreak, and unsatiated yearning, and are all delivered in Joey’s soulful voice and matched by Dave’s serene harmonies.
Joey’s guitar playing, which makes heavy use of a brass slide, has been described elsewhere as “tasteful,” a description both apt and insufficient. Landreth is capable of electrifying slide pyrotechnics, though he broke them out sparingly, and never in a way that failed to serve the songs and the lyrics. Each time he did, however he received rapturous applause from the audience. So too did Campbell, whose organ and electric piano skills were given several moments in the spotlight.
Brothers Dave and Joey seemed surprised to receive such adulation in the first appearance in the state. The two could be seen smiling at each other and exchanging incredulous glances between songs. If the lengthy line at the merchandise table after the show was an indication, The Bros. Landreth left a lasting first impression on this audience.