Last updated on October 3rd, 2017 at 07:48 pm
Judah & the Lion brought the first leg of their “Going to Mars” tour to First Avenue’s mainroom last night. Touring in promotion of their aptly titled LP, Folk Hop N’ Roll, the quartet took the stage by storm opening with a cover of T-Pain’s “Booty Wurk” complete with full choreography and heavy auto-tune. The Nashville natives followed that humorous performance with their 2014 song, “Twenty-Somethings,” a relatable track for anyone figuring their way through life.
Judah Akers (lead vocals), Brian MacDonald (mandolin/guitar), Nate Zuercher (banjo), and Spencer Cross (drums), utilized traditional folksy instruments with hip-hop influenced beats and heavier guitar riffs to create a unique combination true their aforementioned album title. Tracks like “Kickin’ da Leaves” had early Mumford & Sons vibes with a good amount of banjo and mandolin, while “Reputation” featured electric guitar and Akers’ rugged vocals for a harder rock sound. Regardless of the genre, they managed to put an incredible amount of energy in to their show and are one of the few bands who sounded significantly better live.
A staple in every Judah and the Lion set is their epic cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside;” Cross’ driving beats had the entire audience bopping along. Before diving in to their latest single, “Suit and Jacket,” Akers took the time to give the crowd an inspiring (albeit slightly cliche) pep-talk stating “you can do whatever you want with your life.” He reflected upon the last time they were in town- October of 2016 at the Varsity Theatre- and how it was a dream to play First Avenue. After touring with the likes of Twenty One Pilots and growing their fan base they managed to sell out this show in under two months, which is an impressive feat for any band.
“Suit and Jacket” served as an anthem for artists, creators, and anyone not willing to compromise their happiness for the more conventional nine-to-five lifestyle. The opening lyric, “I ain’t trading my youth for no suit and jacket,” filled the room and had every young dreamer dancing through their existential crisis. The entire song managed to hit the nail on the head when it comes to being lost and confused with an unorthodox career path, but still gave hope to anyone with those aspirations.
J&TL’s commanding stage presence combined with their refined skills and eclectic sound make them a force to be reckoned with in the world of live music. They put their all in to every song and give concertgoers a more than worthwhile experience. This leg of the “Going to Mars” tour runs through November and picks back up in February. They’ll be back in the Twin Cities at the Palace Theatre on February 23rd- find tickets here.