Tuesday, June 21, 2016
State Theatre, Portland, Maine
I saw Gregory Alan Isakov open for my beloved Brandi Carlile back in 2009 at South Portland High School and was captivated by his lyrics and airy voice. I waited in a long line after the show that night to buy his 2009 album, This Empty Northern Hemisphere, and was really excited to hear Brandi Carlile’s beautiful voice singing along on so much of it. That album is one that you should listen to right now, actually. I saw Gregory Alan Isakov once more in 2011, but sadly not again until April of 2015. I was in love then, and my sweetie joined me for the show and fell in love with Gregory Alan Isakov, too.
Here’s the problem with introducing people you love to musicians you love—sometimes you aren’t in love anymore, and your ex comes to see a musician you introduced them to with the person they started dating a curious two weeks after you ended a two year long relationship. It was awful. I’d been excited about this show (obviously), and my steadfast concert companion Colin kindly bought us tickets for this reserved seating show at State Theatre the day tickets went on sale and our seats were front row center. Problem was, my ex and his girlfriend were just one row behind us. Thank goodness they were stage left and we were stage right, but eight people between us was really not enough for my concert enjoyment. Anyhow, I am human and I was so upset and jittery to see my manipulative, freeloading ex with his no-longer-new girlfriend that I was shaky for the vast majority of the show. If Colin hadn’t been there, I would definitely have left my front row seat and gone home before the show even started. Thinking back to this night, I feel a pit in my stomach and remember how distracted, sad, and angry I was the whole time. I tried to consciously focus on enjoying Gregory’s enchanting voice, Jeb Bows’ positive energy while he danced with his violin, or the powerful, full sound generated by having the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and the Ghost Orchestra on stage all night, too, but I failed miserably. Coincidentally, my ex asked to borrow the very Gregory Alan Isakov CD I bought the night I first saw him live all those years ago, and he still has it.
I am grateful that Colin posted the night’s setlist on setlist.fm (his concert schedule is far more impressive than mine, by the way), because you can click on the “play” arrow to the right of the first song of the night, and it will auto play all of the songs in order for you. I am taking this time to hear the show again (pretty much for the first time) right now, and these songs are so layered and beautiful. GAI played five songs from This Empty Northern Hemisphere, which is a perfect album. He is wonderful live—totally not interested in being the center of attention and humble and genuine. I will hopefully feel better next time he’s in town. Or I’ll just go to one of his shows farther away. Either way, he is not to be missed. I’ll close with apt lyrics from one of my favorite GAI songs—“The Moon Song”—“and those broken hearted lovers/they got nothing on me.”
Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony is available now. Here’s some praise for his new album. Here’s a biographical piece in the New York Times about GAI balancing music and farming.