At The State Room, it’s not shameful to be a heathen. In fact, when the Band of Heathens (BoH) comes to town it’s an outright honor. Friday night we celebrated our otherness joy in fine musical fashion with a packed house of BoH veterans and newly converted fans. Salt Lake City’s concert scene is familiar territory for the Austin-based roots rockers. We could tell from their setlist they came to party with friends. They mixed in familiar favorites with new music they were eager to share. They also played us a few deep cuts from their massive catalog and some unexpected surprises.
They started their show with “South by Somewhere” and “Polaroid,” before introducing us to some new songs, “Stormy Weather” and “Heartless Year.” Their new album Simple Things is a great musical treatise to the struggles we all endured over the last few years. It acknowledges the difficult past, but also celebrates the beauty of living in the present.
They got us all singing along to the BoH classics “Jackson Station” and “LA County Blues.” On “Look at Miss Ohio” the band started off with a slow, bluesy tempo which they normally build to a rafter-shaking boil. For this show, they took us on a mid-song journey—a little psychedelic soul jam—before they arrived at a driving rock crescendo. It’s my theory that they were inspired by the months of touring the Southwest and West Coast free-states where the prohibition of cannabis has ended (except in Utah). Either way, it was a delightfully trippy interlude. They then brought us back to 2006 with “Keep on Trying” from their debut album Live from Momo’s before getting us all singing again with “Shotgun.” They ended the 16-song set with their certified gold record hit, and fun sing along, “Hurricane.” For their encore they ended with a lovely and soulful “Simple Things” and an extended experimental jam on “Should Have Known.”
During the pandemic, the band streamed a live Tuesday night variety show called Good Time Supper Club which my wife and I tuned in for every week. We learned a lot about the individual band members through that show. For instance, we discovered that keyboardist Trevor Nealon is a huge Deadhead. The evening’s opener, Alex Jordan, also happens to be a Deadhead who tours with a Grateful Dead tribute band. When Jordan joined the Heathens on stage, we got a rare treat, a BoH cover of the Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower.”
As a truly independent band who shunned the lure of large corporate record deals, we experienced the BoH creed– a great live performance of some of the best songs you’ll never hear on commercial radio. They really do build their fan base one amazing show at a time.
Alex Jordan opened the evening with a solo performance of great new music from a forthcoming album set for release in March, 2024. He started us off with the title track “Queen Kerosene,” a roots rocking number with hints of alt-country. He played us his version of the Jayhawks country-folk song “Blue.” Jordan gives this hidden gem a little more of an electric, rockabilly flair. In 2020, just before the pandemic hit and the world shut down, Jordan released his debut album, The Subtle Exhibitionist. Poor timing aside, he made up for lost ground by playing us the catchy and clever “Your Kingdom Comes (With a View).” He shared with us a Utah-inspired instrumental piece, “Canyonlands,” that’ll be on his new record. He ended his 9-song set with another new one, “Saving Grace.”
With two full-length albums worth of original material and a vast repertoire of Grateful Dead songs to sprinkle in, Jordan is an exciting new roots artist. I’d like to see him again with a full-band. He’s mastered that California alt-country jam sound that continues to grow in popularity.
A night of great music at The State Room is one of the simple things that warms this Heathen’s soul.
Who: The Band of Heathens w/ Alex Jordan
What: Simple Things Tour
Where: The State Room
When: Friday, November 10, 2023