It’s been three years coming since anything exceptionally noticeable has come our way from Jon McLaughlin. 2008’s OK Now, his second studio album, brought us memorable tracks like “Beating My Heart” and “We All Need Saving.” There are even some of us that remember 2007’s Indiana, Jon’s first studio album, which brought about “Human,” a favorite of mine and of the masses.
With the release of his latest studio album, Forever If Ever
, just three weeks under his belt, the timing was right for a Jon McLaughlin show on October 3rd at Exit/In, one of Nashville’s most legendary and intimate venues. Opening act Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers helped set the mood, performing a rotation of their soulful (McLaughlin referred to their sound as “rootsy”), up-tempo hits.
It was when Mr. McLaughlin hit the stage, however, that the true show began. Much to the delight of the crowd, Jon opened with a blaring rendition of possibly his most recognizable song, “Beating My Heart,” hitting every note and lyric with exceedingly passionate strength–if the crowd had lost any interest during the opening act, the guarantee of rekindling their attention to the stage was sure there now.
Following a cut from his latest release, McLaughlin hit the nail on the head with audience participation during an expressive performance of “That’s Why I’m Talking To You.” There wasn’t a set of hands not clapping in the venue. Jon just seemed to have that power.
If there is one things fans love, it is unequivocally when artists take breaks in their show to share personal stories of their journeys and of the meanings behind their albums and individual tracks. A record that had been a year in the making, McLaughlin told of how Forever If Ever and its creative process saw setbacks that are so often experienced in the music industry, mainly conflicts between the label and the material that the artist has presented. To be straightforward, Jon put the audience in a place of understanding these challenges, and led us right into a ripping rendition of “Promising Promises,” one of the standout tracks on the new record.
The good stories didn’t stop there.
Interestingly enough, during the writing process of Forever If Ever, Jon was contacted by none other than country artist Blake Shelton (who, of course, is no stranger to Nashville). To say he was shocked was an understatement. In a humorous dialogue with the audience, McLaughlin elaborated on a text messaging conversation he had with Shelton during their initial period of contact. “I didn’t really know what to say,” McLaughlin said as he reflected on their first exchange (how ironic it is when stars become star struck by other stars, right?). It turned out that a finalist from NBC’s primetime show The Voice was a huge fan of McLaughlin and had expressed interest in wanting to record with him sometime. That finalist, Xenia, who many will remember with the same fondness that I myself remember her, got her wish. Thanks to the power of Blake Shelton and graciousness of McLaughlin himself, Xenia now appears in dual vocals with Jon on the cut “Maybe It’s Over,” a song he went on to perform to a roaring audience reception.
That roaring audience reception can be equated to Jon McLaughlin’s entire performance here in Nashville. Back in “music city” for the first time in three years, it was evident that this town was more than happy to welcome Mr. McLaughlin back. It’s certainly clear why. An extremely talented keyboardist (Shhh...I took a few videos on my iPhone of just his hands playing the keys; it’s fascinating), a powerful voice, all combined with an outstanding musical repertoire make for a complete package and certainly made for a show worth seeing.
As he closed with “Human” followed by an encore with the song “Industry,” Jon McLaughlin said goodnight to Nashville and went back into the world that needs more artists just like himself.
- “Beating My Heart”
- “Without You Now”
- “Why I’m Talking To You”
- “Always On My Mind”
- “Promising Promises”
- “Maybe It’s Over”
- Solo set: “I’ll Follow You”
- “If Only I”
- “These Crazy Times”
- “Summer Is Over”
- Encore: Solo set: “Beautiful Disaster” and “Industry”
Logan Leasure loves the music and entertainment industry and always has something to say or write about it. He is currently a student at Belmont University in Nashville. Photos ©2011 Jordan Johansen