Finally, a sit-down concert for the Jayhawks.
After years and years of regular gigs at First Avenue, the veteran Twin Cities Americana aces made their debut at the Minnesota Zoo on Friday night.
It was a sit-down event for most of the evening – except for a handful of crowd-pleasing, up-tempo tunes including “I’d Run Away,” “Big Star” and “Bad Time” when the fans stood and responded with post-song whistles and cheers.
The sold-out, nearly two-hour performance was a very good one, the right combination of melancholy, tunefulness, harmonies and spirit.
Frontman Gary Louris is usually undemonstrative in concert but on Friday he seemed a little looser, partly because this was the last show of this leg of the Jayhawks’ tour.
After Folk Uke, the night’s opening act, sang backup on a few Jayhawks songs, Louris walked across the stage and hugged the two women. He even got a little goofy when bassist Marc Perlman switched to electric guitar on “Bad Time” and took a long solo. Imagine Louris getting goofy. OK, he was actually just playful.
Louris was in good voice, though his guitar work was mostly economical. There was nice guitar tension between him and new sideman Chet Lyster (Eels, Lucinda Williams), especially on the jangly “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”
Louris experimented with loops on “Ace,” a selection from the new album “Paging Mr. Proust.” The band offered eight numbers from the album, which is their ninth studio set in 31 years.
Some connected such as the country-rock “Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces” while others like “Pretty Roses in Your Hair,” which sounded like a cross between Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, did not get a strong reaction from the standing-room-only crowd.
But there were so many shining moments – from the Byrds-like “Tailspin” with Folk Uke harmonies and Louris’ two solo pieces (“Settled Down Like Rain” and “Angelyne”) to the sweet, pretty “All the Right Reasons” and those aforementioned tunes that brought the fans to their feet – that the Jayhawks should make the zoo one of their regular haunts along with their annual winter-time gig at First Avenue.