John Craigie Delivers Heartfelt and Humorous Performance in Portland, OR (SHOW REVIEW)

On Sunday, December 5th, folk troubadour John Craigie played the second of two sold out nights at Portland’s Aladdin Theater as part of his Keep It Warm 2021 tour. The night began with a short opening set from Kassi Valazza, who was flanked by Lewi Longmire on bass and Taylor Kingman on guitar. Valazza’s spacious, psych-tinged country-western songs are a dreamy, auditory desert landscape full of longing and vivid colors.

Craigie wasted no time bringing the Aladdin Theater crowd to attention with one of the best opening songs any folk singer has in their repertoire, “Dissect The Bird.” This song in itself encapsulates the entire Craigie ethos. It starts with self-deprecating humor, but soon enough is tugging heartstrings. Then, when eyes begin to water, there’s more comic release of tension. There’s always a lot of love for artists that can invoke laughter as well as tears, but it’s a rare performer who can elicit both within the confines of one seemingly simple folk song.

After the opener, Craigie went straight into story time, letting us know we were in for a lot of “talkie-talkie” because he’d been saving all of his anecdotes during quarantine. Indeed, stories are as big a part of a Craigie show as songs. Craigie is a raconteur. Even when dedicating a song to anyone who has lost a loved one during the COVID times, and telling of the recent loss of his own father, Craigie has a way of using heartfelt humor to make it all endearing and relatable. It’s like addressing the perils of being human from the warm confines of a cozy blanket.

It wouldn’t be a proper folk show without a few singalongs. “We Got Stoned at the Family Reunion for Obvious Reasons” was one, with some hilarious stoner observations thrown in (the only part of your own reflection you can lick is your tongue). Another was “Let’s Talk This Over When We’re Sober,” a song originally written about Burning Man, but that has since been updated with lyrics to address certain quarantine situations. Craigie also played his latest single release, “Laurie Rolled Me a J,” along with a couple of standout tracks from 2020 album Asterisk the Universe, “Don’t Ask,” and “Part Wolf.” 

After a short encore break and a standing ovation, Craigie returned and brought out his good friends the Shook Twins, along with Lewi Longmire, to perform the John Lennon and Yoko Ono holiday classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” which the Shook Twins and Craigie recently recorded and officially released. Then Kassi Valazza and Taylor Kingman joined for the last song of the evening, Craigie’s ode to where he grew up, “I Am California.”

The Keep It Warm tour continues on Friday, December 10th at the Tower Theater in Bend, OR and December 11th in Eugene before heading to Colorado for a pair of dates the following weekend. 

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