Change Is Good: The Head and The Heart showcase growth Fillmore Philly - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Coping with change has been a constant theme of The Head and The Heart‘s music since the beginning.

Some of the final lyrics to ring out in The Fillmore last night during the Seattle roots rock band’s headlining show dated back to their 2011 debut: “My family lives in a different state / If you don’t know what to make of this / Then we will not relate.”

Founding member Josiah Johnson is originally the one who sang those words — he has since stepped back from the band to focus on his mental health, though that isn’t the only change facing The Head and The Heart as they tour in support of Signs of Light, their third and finest album to date.

The band — the family, if you will — does in fact live different states now, and as my interview with singer-guitarist Jonathan Russell detailed, Signs of Light is The Head and The Heart’s first record on a major label (Warner Brothers), and its first record working with a major producer (Jay Joyce). If last night’s Fillmore gig is anything to go by, the band is working with change admirably, adjusting and growing and thrilling a capacity crowd along the way.

The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The stage was decked out in ornate potted plants and neon lights spelling out the album’s title, and the opening one-two of current hit single “All We Ever Knew” into the rousing “City Of Angles” kicked the show off on a chill-inducing, look-how-far-we’ve-come moment. Those two tracks open Signs of Light and, as I said last week, the album is undeniably classic The Head and The Heart, albeit on a grander scale — the arrangements more spacious, the crescendos a bit louder, the sentiments more affecting.

It’s pop / rock euphoria, and the band is both earnest and honest enough to pull it off. The rapport they have with their hyper-engaged fans is a plus. On stage left, Matt Gervais fills in exceptionally well for Johnson, strumming and diving and during the encore, leaping offstage with his tambourine and running around the crowd. At stage right, singer-violinist Charity Rose Thielen is a master hype-lady, urging fans to raise their voices and clap along – and a HATH gig is a glorious singalong more often than not.

The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The most interesting part came when we got to see what all this growth and change meant for the places from which the band came. Short answer: it, too, sounds bigger. The plaintive and introspective “Another Story” in particular, when the song dips down to a whisper and kicks back in on the “sun still rises” coda — drummer Tyler Williams’ propulsive beats make that moment massive. “Let’s Be Still” is extended as well, with a pulsing hi-hat driving it onward.

Voices across the room joined in for “Lost In My Mind” — the first high point of the night, before the main set bumped into a brief lull (it was a Sunday gig, after all). The multi-faceted “Down in the Valley” brought everybody back in, though, and Thielen remarked on the room’s energy when re-emerging for the encore. “We always get such a good reactive vibe when we play here,” she said, before leading the band into an acoustic, madrigal-laden take on “Library Magic.” It already felt special, and the fact that the song almost fell apart when Gervais came in too early on a chorus but the band laughed and kept going made it moreso.

The message of the night: nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent, friends and family come and go and all we can do is keep our heads up and keep moving forward as best we are able, all the way up to when “Rivers and Roads” shut the show down.

Deaclan McKenna | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Deaclan McKenna | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Opening the night was Deaclan McKenna, a 17-year-old UK indie pop newcomer who might have veered too much on the boy band-y side for some — indeed, he was wearing a t-shirt that said “indie dreamboat” — but his songs were exceptionally crafted pop gems reminiscent of Johnny Marr and Travis, not to mention McKenna’s contemporaries Hippo Campus and Cub Sport. A new one called “The Kids Don’t Want To Go Home” was four minutes of jangley goodness, the single “Brazil” went over nicely, and his band (Isabel Torres on guitar, Gabi King on drums, Nathan Li on keys) were skilled players that set the night off on a good tone.

Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

All We Ever Knew
City of Angels
Rhythm and Blues
Another Story
Let’s Be Still
Your Mother’s Eyes
Take A Walk
Lost In My Mind
Winter Song
Oh My Dear
10,000 Weight in Gold
Sounds Like Hallelujah
Down in the Valley

Library Magic
Cats and Dogs / Coeur D’Alene
Rivers and Roads

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