Jerry Joseph’s The Beautiful Madness was one of the best albums of 2020. It found Joseph penning some of his most poignant and vulnerable songs while being backed in the studio by none other than the Drive-by Truckers, giving the album an all-star quality that was anything but novel. For obvious reasons, he wasn’t able to take the songs on the road, ultimately giving the release the same anticlimactic fate as so many other great albums that came out that pandemic year. Luckily, Joseph was able to make up for lost time when he delivered a special show at the Star Theater in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, December 29th. The show also kicked off his annual New Year’s Eve run of shows in the Rose City with his band the Jackmormons.
Joseph started off loose with the sprawling, guitar-driven jam of “K-Line” before dropping into “Wild Wild West,” sandwiching “North” and “Family Affair.” This first part of the set felt like one long song with the band – which included Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists on keyboard – launching off before Jospeh declared that they got the hippie shit out of their system and brought Patterson Hood of the Drive-by Truckers to the stage. From here, things took a different but welcome turn as Joseph seized the moment to showcase the songs from The Beautiful Madness, among others. “The Days of Heaven,” “Bone Towers,” “(I’m in Love With) Hyrum Black,” and “Eureka” all stood out in the way Joseph incorporated the Southern rock and alt-country sensibilities of the Truckers into his own songwriting. Hood is normally an animated frontman, but during this show he took a back seat and filled in for his missing bandmates with guitar and backing harmonies, not to mention plenty of banter with Joseph. Few expected Hood to sit in for nearly the entire set and he brought a new level of depth to Joseph’s performance as the two traded licks. Just like they started, the band would strike out on their own for an explosively jamming encore cover of Gillian Welch’s “Time (The Revelator)” and Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” to end the show on a high.
Fans of The Beautiful Madness may be wishing for a Jerry Joseph-Drive-by Truckers joint tour, but that will most likely never happen. Thursday’s show in Portland offered the chance to see Joseph play these already-timeless songs alongside Hood, who lent a taste of the album’s musical magic to the mix for what felt like a one-time experience. Considering that these songs are still “new” – at least in the live sense – it felt like a cathartic moment for Joseph as he finally got to share them with his fans in a way that was true to the vision of the album. The show also marked yet another kick-off of a New Year’s run that has become a rock and roll tradition.
Photos below include Thursday, December 29th and Saturday, December 31st. All photos by Greg Homolka.