John Hiatt, like Chicken Soup for the Soul

In the south, they have soul food.

Monday night, I listened to soul music. Now, granted, soul music can be different for everyone. It can very by the day or by the hour. Soul music can change with your mood – what you need to hear to feel deeply satisfied…at peace with the world. You can feel the music filling up the space, erasing the conflicts of the day, and helping you to release.

John Hiatt’s performance at the Door Community Auditorium on Monday, July 5, did that for me.I did not know what to expect at first, being relatively new to his music. Over a glass of wine at Cooper’s Corner before the concert, we mentioned that John Hiatt was on our schedule for the evening.

“Oh, right,” the bartender said. “There’s a couple that’s been coming here the last couple of nights, doing a count down to the John Hiatt concert, they were so excited.”

He started off with a bang, catapulting the show into motion and feet a tappin’ with the song “Drive South.” In fact, I found myself chair dancing throughout almost the entire show. I beat the rhythm on my knee, my date’s arm and swayed side-to-side.

During a couple of different songs, he ended with wonderful a capella vocals, hitting high notes and swinging down the scale, and up again, stunning me with unexpected heart. I was not only impressed with his talent in these moments, but awed by his courageous, attention-getting shift in mood.

Hiatt masterfully composed the set list to include songs from his brand new album, The Open Road. The title song, which he played near the beginning of the evening, honestly felt like a traveling tune. It rolled through descriptions of scenery like something out of a car window, and completely captured the transitory feeling of life when home is never the destination.

“My Baby,” another song off the album, was a rocking number. The song told a delightful tale of a woman whose qualities were not all that commendable – “….seems she couldn’t keep her skirts, far enough down below her knee…” – but what’s important is that she’s his, as the chorus says, “Don’t you talk about my, don’t you talk about my, my baby, my baby, my baby…”

In all of his new songs, the vocals feel like the driving force. His musical stories and insightful lyrics fuel the fiery guitar, gaining momentum until the song seems to effortlessly guide the audience and musicians forward. His love songs he admits are sappy, but then again, aren’t so sappy when you mean what you’re singing. I felt like I looked through the window at the beginning of a marriage in the song, “Thing Called Love,” and the end of a romance in, “Cry Love,” followed by the carefree, cheery tunes that dance the night away, because, “The Tiki Bar is Open.”

Speaking of soul food, we all went down south with, “Memphis in the Meantime,”  where we busted out the cowboy boots, cow horn and the Cadillac, too.

With some new artists, the live performance offers nothing that the CD can’t. In fact, quite often the performer fails to bring the energy, momentum and creativity to the stage, making their live show pale in comparison to the recorded version.

Hiatt, a true, blue performer, gives something special to his performance. A natural on stage, he relaxes into an easy conversation with the audience, relating to us immediately:

“Where are you from?” he asked. “Chicago..from Illinois? Here for the weekend? For the fourth of July? I feel like I’m part of a community. How many of you live here, locals?”

We all cheered to represent our factions.

“Well,” he said, “You know ya’ll gotta go home sometime.”

Hiatt brought us home with my personal favorite song, “Have a Little Faith in Me,” which he played with such heart I got a little teary eyed. It also seamlessly brought the show full circle, from his new album The Open Road, to the opening lines of a now classic tune, “When the road gets dark, And you can no longer see, Just let my love throw a spark, And have a little faith in me.”


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