Jays of Clay bring their message to Foxboro

A review of Jars of Clay at Showcase Live! on January 16, 2010

, Editor-in-Chief

It’s been awhile since Jars of Clay have made their way to the Boston-area for a proper headlining show. The long wait ended on Saturday night when the band returned to play for packed crowd at Showcase Live! in Foxboro. They brought new tunes and updated old favorites for a night that delighted their faithful fans.

Jars of Clay are on the road to support their tenth studio album, The Long Fall Back to Earth, which was released last April. The band opened Saturday’s show the same way they open their new album, by casually launching into the synth-driven instrumental “The Long Fall” and then really kicking things off with “Weapons”. An energetic rendition of “Work” off 2006’s Good Monsters followed and really got the crowd moving and singing.

Frontman Dan Haseltine, a native of Hampden, Massachusetts, was clearly happy to be back on his home turf. He worked every end of the stage as if he were Bono-sans-ego. And despite battling a cold earlier in the week, his vocals were just as strong. There was no preaching (it could be found in the music) but there was plenty of stage banter, especially with guitarist Stephen Mason. The two kept the crowd laughing with tales of their life on the road including their stop at Patriot Place, where Haseltine enjoyed his homecoming of sorts by having munchkins at Dunkin Donuts and Mason picked up Rock Band 2 at Game Stop because “the real thing is just not enough”.

Labeled as a Christian band for years, the band has actually made a move more towards the secular route, a la Switchfoot, but the songs still send a clear message of the power of love and faith and the need to serve the world. The majority of the 90-minute/17-song set was dedicated to The Long Fall Back to Earth, an album that finds the band exploring new sounds with more indie and electro influences being fused with their standard pop-rock foundation. For the most part it works well on the live stage – “Closer” and “Heaven” were two standouts, though “Safe To Land” and “Headphones” both seemed to fall flat in the live setting.

Not only have the band experimented with their new tunes, they’ve done the same with some of their old material as well. In 2008, the band released the EP Closer, which contained some remixed of the band’s biggest hits. When it came time for the sing-alongs on Saturday the band delivered updated versions of the fan favorites including “Love Song For A Savior”, “Liquid” and “Flood”. With the crowd firmly in their pocket after the impressive 1-2-3 punch, Jars closed their main set by rocking through “Dead Man (Carry Me)”.

A three-song encore kicked off with a pair of new tunes in “Don’t Stop” and latest single, “Two Hands”. The show ended with the four main members delivering an acoustic rendition of the contemporary psalm “All My Tears”.

While the show was heavy on new material and lacked a few old hits, it’s great to see Jars of Clay experimenting more with their sound. The band seems to be very happy doing so and while most bands in their shoes would (and do) play it safe, Jars of Clay have reinvigorated their catalog with a new chapter. Add to that a lively crowd (that even caught the band by surprise), and Saturday’s show was a good night had by all.

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