Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn brought his latest tour to the Varsity on Monday Night. The show, in support of his excellent new album Caretakers, marked his first Twin Cities appearance in years and proved to be a passionate and rewarding exploration of his catalog, pleasing fans old and new in the process.
Opening act Michigander likely made some new fans as well. During their 30-minute opening set, the Michigan-based band, led by singer/guitarist Jason Singer, won over the audience with solid songwriting and tight playing. A welcome surprise came in the form of a guest appearance by Minneapolis singer Lydia Liza, who Singer said the band met at an Icehouse gig a few years ago. The project is young, but it showed lots of promise and served as a great complement to the veteran Yorn.
Though he’s been around the block a few times at this point (Caretakers Is Yorn’s eighth album since 2001), Yorn is clearly in a sweet spot of sorts both creatively and musically. While his deep catalog has plenty of strong points and gems, Caretakers is his best album in some time. It feels distinctively fresh without rejecting or watering down any of what he does well.
In addition to being his first album released on his own label, Caretakers is significant in that it features the work of a new collaborator— Jackson Phillips. Phillips, a producer and multi-instrumentalist who is best known for his work in the project Day Wave, co-produced the album (and played in Yorn’s Band). Which of these tasks was more impactful is up for debate, but what is not in question is Caretakers’ quality. Expanding upon the mix of indie and alternative, somewhat rootsy rock that Yorn has been known for, Caretakers makes for an excellent top-to-bottom listen and, like all of Yorn’s best work, gets better with repeated exposure.
Unsurprisingly, some of the show’s best moments came from Caretakers. Opener “Idols (We Don’t Ever Have to Say Goodbye)” made a lasting impression, as did late set highlight “Calm Down.” You never know how new material will be received by fans of a veteran artist with so many beloved favorites, but on this night the audience was very receptive.
Of course, said ‘older favorites’ also played an important role in the show. There was plenty played from Musicforthemorningafter, Yorn’s celebrated 2001 debut. “Life on a Chain” and “Strange Condition” played especially well, as did ultra-deep cut “Sleep Better.” Day I forgot, Yorn’s Sophomore release, got some run as well, including a gorgeous acoustic “Crystal Village.”
The effective mix of old and new made for a solid show, one that was long-awaited by Yorn’s diehard fans. There’s no telling when he’ll come back, but one can only hope that it will be sooner than later.