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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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The Head & the Heart played its third Milwaukee gig Sunday night under the moon and stars at Summerfest.
The Head & the Heart played its third Milwaukee gig Sunday night under the moon and stars at Summerfest.

The Head & The Heart takes it outside

After a couple gigs in the venerable old Turner Hall Ballroom, Seattle's The Head & the Heart returned to Milwaukee Sunday for an energetic 75-minute show under the moonlight.

The band, whose self-titled debut disc was released in 2010 and reissued by Sub Pop Records last year, headlined the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage, playing all 10 tracks from its record, and adding five more for good measure.

On the occasion of the band's second Milwaukee appearance, last autumn, I talked to singer Josiah Johnson. A couple weeks ago we reconnected.

He said that although many new songs are still in their infancy, Milwaukee fans could expect to hear a few new ones from the group, which builds its sound of folk-ish rock, piano and tight harmonies.

"We do have a few new songs that we didn't play on that tour last that we've been playing on the subsequent tours this year, which we're really excited about," Johnson said.

"They've been getting good reactions and hold their own. Jon's (singer and guitarist Jon Russell) been playing electric on some newer stuff, and there's starting to be a sense of shifting directions musically."

True to Johnson's word, The Head & the Heart played "Gone," "Josh McBride," What's the Point," the uptempo piano-driven "When I Fall Asleep" and, in the encore, the intimate acoustic "Ever Since."

But, unsurprisingly, the large crowd – we weren't packed in like sardines, but the area was quite full – really responded to the more familiar album tracks, from the opening salvo of "Cats and Dogs" merged into "Coeur d'Alene" – just like on the record – to the final song of the two-tune encore, "Down in the Valley."

At the close of the set a triumphant rendition of "Rivers and Roads" had the crowd roaring. And more than a few in the audience could be heard intoning the words to "Down in the Valley," too.

The performance felt like it had a little more pep than last autumn's indoor show, so maybe The Head & the Heart thrives on fresh air.

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