Part documentary, part commentary, but all uniquely delivered, Gabriel Kahane kicked off his tour last night at the Parkway Theater. With ties and collaborations with Chris Thile (Punch Brothers), Amelia Meath (Sylvan Esso) Caroline Shaw, Sam Amidon, and Pekka Kuusisto, Gabriel brought his newest release Magnificent Bird on tour.
An album that chronicles the final month of a year spent off the internet, oh yeah, and also during the start of the pandemic, Gabriel brilliantly transcribes his experience by opening up veins into his personal life. Using personal experiences isn’t new for him, as we received Book of Travelers after his travels on a train right after the 2016 election. But the dispensing of these new songs, encircled in short stories, instilled light into a dark time.
A purveyor of anti-technology, Gabriel eloquently championed his beliefs, to the point where writing a long internet article seems counterintuitive to the messaging of the show. For the sake of commerce and Mr. Peanut’s capitalist values, here’s a recap of what you can expect in seeing Mr. Kahane.
Right off the start of the set, Gabriel shared his story behind his first release, Craigslistlieder, a collection of songs written from Craigslist personal adds, poetically and comedically set to piano. Fast forward to “Hot Pink Raingear”, also laced with humor, describing his experience now seated in Portland, OR. Each progression of the set brought new light to his memoir, stories of putting his little girl to bed, finding badgers, and retelling the cow stories from his last show.
Weaved into the playlist was “Ambassador Hotel“, a song about the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated after winning the Democratic nomination in 1968. Gabriel’s hinted at the Twin Cities charge of social justice by reminding us that American history is fraught with progression and entrenchment, something we continue to see on every front.
“Die Traumdeutung” reinforces this message. The first verse weighted down with the final line, another heavy observation of where we are in America.
“This time, I’m listening on the radio—
The explosion, even on speakers,
Rattles my ribcage. There are screams,
Chaotic shouts, voices I think I know,
Or maybe I don’t, and then silence.
This is the new Age of Anxiety.”
Finishing with “Sit Shiva” after welcoming Finnish musician Pekka Kuusisto onstage, was a sentimental book-cap to the night. A song about loss and saying goodbye, it was a tender moment where you are reminded that life holds irreplaceable value. Gabriel continues his tour through Chicago, Ann Arbor, Nashville, and Columbus this month. Disconnect from your device and tap into the keen eyes and songs of Gabriel Kahane. It’s worth the focus.