President Obama's speech last night at the University of Colorado's Coors Event Center marked the umpteenth time the Commander in Chief has stopped in the Centennial State this campaign season -- just last week, he was touting his record in Denver's City Park. On this outing, though, he brought some friends with him: the Head and the Heart.
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The Head and the Heart played just a few songs on a small stage situated adjacent to the president's setup. The four bandmembers looked tiny, young and beardy -- dressed up like disheveled professors, or like they'd stopped by the thrift store on their way to the venue. The Coors Event Center was packed; midway through the show it was announced that 10,000 Obama supporters were there.
The band's song selection was tasteful, showcasing the reasons why their self-titled 2010 debut was such a rare treat. "Lost in My Mind" began the four-song mini-set with sparse percussion and lightly strummed acoustic guitar. This is folk music in the best sense, the kind that Pete Seeger would approve of and the kind that's catapulted Denver's own the Lumineers.
These were songs that begged for audience participation. Synchronized clapping was mandatory. However -- and this is no dig -- the songs weren't exactly rousing. You could imagine the market research done on Obama's campaign soundtrack. Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" is obviously a good choice. The U2 anthems work well with the uplifting vibe of hope and change. But a cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" here performed solo by Jonathan Russell? Great song, but it's not one that's likely to inspire Coloradans to go running to the polls.
While, like the previous acts appearing at other campaign stops for both candidates, the Head and the Heart kept the overt politicizing to a minimum, singer Josiah Johnson did take a moment after "Pick Me Up" to note: "There's a line in that last song that says, 'When I'm down, would you pick me up, my friends?' And I think one of the stark differences of the two people running in this election is I feel like this one here today will pick us up when we're down."
"Rivers and Roads" ended the set. Like the other tunes, it was full of tambourines and maracas, full-throated vocals (with Russell and Johnson harmonizing with fiddlist/singer Charity Rose Thielen), and felt informed by the classicism of Woody Guthrie or Robert Frost. Those 20th century icons, like the band, were quintessentially American phenomena.
Personal Bias: Having seen Karl Denson's Tiny Universe rally a crowd at the Ogden earlier this week, I can say: that group knew how to work a room. The Head and the Heart's jangle-folk could've done more to get asses moving.
Random Note: I swear the chorus to "Rivers and Roads" sounded just like "Denver's in Robes."
By the Way: Today's the last day for mail-in voting. Do your patriotic duty and get those ballots in.
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