Kevin Morby and the Oh My God Band | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN
Kevin Morby shows off his range, shares the mic with Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, at Union Transfer
The clouds had settled on stage and flowers were in place: Kevin Morby was back for his first show in Philly since 2017. Touring in support of his acclaimed album Oh My God, Morby and his powerful backing band ran through a Sunday night set touching on all five of his neo-folk rock albums for a modest, yet enthusiastic Union Transfer crowd.
Opening with the unmistakable baby voice intro to “Congratulations,” Morby played it true to the album. But throughout the remainder of the night he dialed in the subdued points and built upon his highs. Since 2013’s Harlem River, Morby’s never hesitated to make his songs not only personal but also emotional. It was clear as he strummed the opening to “Seven Devils” behind softly closed eyes under heavy isolating spotlight. Without any time wasted he and the seven-member OMG Band kicked into “OMG Rock and Roll,” a thumping rock ‘n roll number tinged with gospel with the help of his background singers. The band’s background singers excelled, and were quite easily the highlight of the entire evening, next on “O Behold,” repeating “Horns from my head / Wings from my shoulder.” It’s a soon-to-be classic Morby tune shining with his signature delicateness. And Sunday night’s rendition soared once cut loose by its frontman. Morby’s entire band also joined Sam Cohen earlier in the night for his opening set of chugging keyboard and ripping guitar selections off his album, The Future’s Still Ringing in My Ears released last month.
Upon taking in the crowd exuberance, the Kansas-bred Morby laughed and shared a moment of Philly pride, asking the crowd, “What do I do every time I’m in Philly?” before retelling his story about riding his bike in the rain the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and singing a short ditty referencing Market Street and the rain that night. It was the perfectly timed segue as Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield joined Morby and company on stage for “Beautiful Strangers,” a song inspired by 2016’s Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.
Morby appeared to extra comfortable in later portion of the night getting into some deeper cuts from his catalog, such as “I Have Been to the Mountain,” which was featured an outstanding saxophone solo, and “Dorothy” from 2016’s Singing Saw. He twisted his guitar and tossed his curly hair from side to side while jumping up onto the drum riser, showing the crowd his getup emblazoned with his newest album’s title down the back of his jacket, praying hands stitched to its front and candles shown on his pants below the knee before walking off stage.
They came back out to encore with “Parade” from 2014’s Still Life and “Harlem River” from his 2013 album of the same name. Morby showed confidence and command as he led the OMG Band through hard-hitting variations of the “Harlem River” outro emblazoned by another sax solo. It was the moment of realization that Morby and his band will not only take you to church, but they’ll rest you upon the clouds, too.