Live Review: Damien Jurado at the Casbah, May 19, 2014

Damien Jurado
Photo by Webb Valarezo

On his 2012 album, Maraqopa, Damien Jurado broke away from his normal sound to explore the psychedelic rock that came out of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the late ’60s. It was a departure for sure, but not so big a stretch that it conflicted with his normal style of haunting yet melodic and oh-so-pretty indie folk.

If Maraqopa was Jurado’s way of acquainting himself with the layers of swirling guitar noise and reverb that make up the basis of psychedelic rock, his newest album, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, is Jurado finding a new and well-suited home in the genre.

With a new direction so filled with lush production, it was a bit of a surprise when Jurado walked onto the stage at the Casbah last Monday night by himself with only an acoustic guitar in tow. How was he going to recreate all of the trippy musical moments that made his last two albums so special?

Well, like any great musician, Jurado proved that it’s not the production of the songs that makes them what they are. Rather, it’s the heart and soul of the song, which in this case came from his unmistakably powerful yet deeply fragile vocals. As with Elliott Smith and Jason Molina’s music, it was Jurado’s voice that reflected pain and perseverance in a way that fancy production never could.

With the smell of a welcome May drizzle still fresh on the wet roads outside and the occasional sound of planes flying overhead, Jurado’s songs were punctuated even more than usual with the spirit of his hometown Seattle. The airplane sounds in particular felt like a direct nod to his songs, which oftentimes revolve around the heartbreak and subsequent joy of people leaving and then returning to his life.

The concept of circularity runs throughout Juardo’s new album, and was also a concept he seemed interested in emphasizing throughout the night. “Love is neverending, it is a circle, never broken” was a lyric Jurado returned to more than once Monday night. And as he ended the show without a word, simply setting down his guitar and walking through the crowd straight through the Casbah doors, it seemed fitting that he didn’t say goodbye. If life truly is a circle — and Jurado makes a compelling argument that it is — then there’s really no need for farewells. That circle will surely bring him and his beautiful music back our way sometime soon.

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