Mason Jennings/Lily Kershaw at House of Blues, 1/26/14
Mason Jennings with Lily Kershaw
Photos by Nicholas Zalud
House of Blues, Bronze Peacock Room
House of Blues' Bronze Peacock Room was the perfect intimate setting for Mason Jennings' stellar showcase of songs on Sunday night. Ranging from his vast catalog of music, Jennings came to perform for his fans' sake, and that he did.
Opener Lily Kershaw isn't exactly a household name, unless maybe you are an avid fan of the CBS show Criminal Minds (apparently Kershaw had two songs on the season finale this year). That being said, she certainly is naturally talented. Her voice is reminiscent of Jewel but slightly warmer. It is to be seen if there is anything discernably different about Kershaw than the 1000 other talented songstresses that release music each year in the hopes of success, but her music is pretty and non-irritating or cheesy. Maybe that is the difference.
After Kershaw's appropriately timed 45-minute set and an intermission, Mason Jennings took the stage. Jennings opened by saying, "Thanks for being so warm, Houston. I'm from Minnesota." A Houston transplant from Chicago and Minneapolis myself, I understand what he means. Nonetheless, this winter has absolutely sucked for Texans, and I'm glad for Houstonians sake that we have music like Mason's to keep us warm.
Jennings is able to weave the poetry of fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan with the sunny, mellow effortlessness of Jack Johnson to create something completely original and unique. He's an American storyteller through and through in a way that is simply difficult to find nowadays.
Opening with "Rainboots," a cute song from his newest album Always Been, Mason put the crowd in the mood to have a good time. This continued with "Your New Man," a funny fan favorite from 2008's In The Ever that elicited laughter from the small audience.
The venue was not packed by any means, but the crowd there definitely felt connected to the artist. As they laughed along with his clever lyrics, they felt like they were in on the joke. On stage, it was just Mason, his guitar and piano, his music, and his stories. Nothing else was needed.
For me personally, I never thought I would be able to see Jennings in this intimate a setting. I've seen him countless times in Minnesota (several at the iconic First Avenue, where he recorded a stellar live disc at a show I just happened to attend in 2009), among several other venues. To see him a stone's throw away was nothing short of remarkable.
"California" was next off his self-titled debut (which brought him a plethora of accolades upon its release in 1997), followed by the gorgeous and illuminating "Darkness Between the Fireflies," a song about not letting the past haunt new love. Having adored these songs since I used to put them on mixtapes, I was pleased to see the whole crowd singing along to my Minnesota man.