Olivia Jean, Hallie Spoor, and Jesse RS at The Summit Moon Room in Denver, CO on 3/21/18

Olivia Jean – Photo by Greg Cocks

Armed with black lipstick, black dangerous high heels, and a black Gretsch guitar, Olivia Jean played her first headlining show in Denver on Wednesday.  With a bare bone crew, Olivia Jean manned her own merch table as the diverse crowd entered the intimate Moon Room.  The concertgoers were a mixture of unnaturally dark haired fellow Goth rockers, friends of the opening bands, and one pony-tailed homeless looking guy in sweatpants.  After offering to buy Olivia Jean an adult beverage, we learned she doesn’t consume alcohol.  But Olivia Jean confessed her vice is Redbull (her tour bus is loaded with it).

Olivia Jean with her band – Photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess

After joining Jack White’s Thirdman Records when she was nineteen, Olivia Jean has proven to be a multi-faceted artist.  She fronted the Goth girl garage band The Black Belles, played guitar with Kate Pierson from The B-52’s (even styled Pierson’s hair for a photo shoot), and performed with Jack White (on stage and in the studio).  Olivia Jean also acted in HBO’s True Detective series staring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as … a singer.  Now performing as a solo act, Olivia Jean has proven to be unstoppable musical force.

Olivia Jean

After changing from a leopard print blouse with a black leather jacket ensemble into a 1960’s inspired red dress, Olivia Jean took the stage with a rock and roll attitude. She led her band through several The Black Belles songs including the Dick Dale surf guitar inspired The Wrong Door and a spooky dance song The Tease. Olivia Jean played an obscure cover song entitled Orange that she was obsessed with as a child. Olivia Jean mesmerized the crowd with her own song Haunt Me (the first tune she wrote on an acoustic guitar).  Her signature track Reminisce (Olivia Jean played every instrument on the recording) was definitely the highlight.  New material Garage Bat and Can U Help Me previewed her yet to be finished sophomore album.  After the show, Olivia Jean stated she would return to the studio after Jack White ends his current tour (White took her producer with him on the road).

Hallie Spoor

Denver folk singer Hallie Spoor and her band performed a very non-Goth type of music before Olivia Jean took over the Moon Room.  Sadly, Ben Van Horne, who played bass for them, lost his life a few weeks ago.  In his memory, the band donated their share of ticket sales to Van Horne’s favorite charity Youth on Record.  The organization had representation at the show allowing audience members to give even more to the worthy cause. Their playing of the title track to Spoor’s debut album The Brave Ones and Sheryl Crowe’s If It Makes You Happy would of made Van Horne proud.

Jesse RS

Morphine (the 1990’s band with the baritone sax not the drug) was played over the house speakers when the band Jesse RS was setting up.  It was the perfect preview of what was about to happen.  Lead singer Jesse Soward took his band through songs that left space for long jams. The improvisational elements were heightened when Chris Whiteley played multiple saxophones (at one point at the same time).

See you at the next show.  I’ll be drinking Redbull and avoiding the guy in the sweatpants.

Glen Hansard at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, CO on 3/14/18

Glen Hansard and the string section

Before the concert Glen Hansard went into his favorite hangout in Boulder, Colorado the Beat Book Shop.  He purchased a vintage copy of The American Mercury magazine that featured stories from famous American writers from the 1920s and 1930s for inspiration. When touring first brought the Irish singer to Boulder, the shop owner Thomas Peters introduced him to the work of Boulder born author John Fante.  The writer’s emotional descriptive stories detail the struggles and humor of everyday life.  The same can be said about Glen Hansard’s songs about lost souls, the broken-hearted, and redemption.

Guitarist Rob Bochnik and the horn section

His impressive band included a string section that layered lush sound and horn players that brought powerful soul to the music.   Hansard played guitar, piano, mandolin, and even a loot throughout the evening.  The altitude affected his multiple instruments tuning, Hansard’s running joke was blaming it on his guitar tech each time he had to tune them.  The set list was a combination of his solo albums, the soundtrack to the film Once, music from his rock group The Frames, and an altered Woody Guthrie cover.

Glen Hansard – all photos
by the Rock and Roll Princess

Glen Hansard asked the audience, “Do you mind if I get a little hippy for a moment?”  The Boulder audience of course obliged (it was like asking if Willie Nelson would mind if you smoked marijuana on his tour bus). Hansard explained that the energy generated from the crowd was reflecting what the band was giving back to them (he admitted it was cliche). The theater’s energy resulted in Hansard pouring his soul into gut-wrenching songs that touched the heart of everyone in the theater.

Hansard’s new album Between Two Shores has more of a rock feel than his last two folk albums.  The song Roll on Slowly morphed into a cover of fellow Irishman Van Morrison’s song Gloria.  Pianist Romy sang and played Marketa Irgolva’s part beautifully on his Academy Award winning song Falling Slowly.  He dedicated it to his ex-singing partner Irgolva like he does every time he performs it without her.  Hansard started the chorus too early, but admitted to the mistake making the ladies in the string section laugh.

Glen Hansard with the band

Woody Guthrie wrote the song Vigilante Man about his landlord Fred Trump (President Donald Trump‘s father).  Hansard altered the lyrics to include lines about the wall, Big Macs, and the size of … buttons. The Boulder audience applauded and giggled at every hysterical line.

The three hour concert concluded when the entire band came to the front of the stage to sing the folk standard Passing Through – I was with Franklin Roosevelt’s side on the night before he died/He said, one world must come out of World War Two/ Yankee, Russian, white or tan. He said, a man is still a man/We’re all on one road, and we’re only passing through.” When Glen Hansard was leaving the theater, he recommended the John Fante novel The Road to Los Angeles to one of his fans.  He wanted to share one of his sources of inspiration while he was … just passing through.

See at the next show.  I will be reading a John Frante novel for inspiration to alter Woody Guthrie song lyrics.