From Dripping Springs, TX to St Paul, MN is a roughly 20 hour drive. The Turf Club is less than a 1 hour drive from even the fringes of the Twin Cities Metro. Israel Nash and Matthew McNeal made the trip from Texas while a couple hundred locals made the trip down to see the show. Both endured way more than dripping as Mother Nature dropped a major rainstorm on the area in the two hours leading up to the show. But all were richly rewarded – coming together to share in the joy of music and to experience the Lifted Tour.
Arriving in the midst of the thunder and lightning outside presented the unexpected opportunity to share an awning and some calm before the musical storm that would soon take place. The chat with Israel and band mates from the town in Texas Hill Country that is “just west of weird” reaffirmed the sense that Israel Nash has found his true north.
Matthew McNeal and Andre Black kicked things off with songs from his album Good Luck . The duo delivered a solid performance. The dark rainy evening and still building crowd were not enough to suppress the ring of Matthew’s wonderful guitar work. After a couple of songs, he engaged the audience with the promise that he’d keep coming back until we changed the locks. Given the solid performance to that point, I suggested we would even leave the lights on for him. This turned out to be an unintended prophecy as the final song from the duo mentioned leaving the lights on. The simplicity and clarity of a guitar and percussion duo were bolstered for two songs as Eric Swanson’s pedal steel and Aaron McClellan’s bass were added to the mix. It proved to be a perfect segue to the headline act as the volume and drive of the bass combined with the complexity and tone of the pedal to prime the audience for the music to come.
From opening the set with “Rolling On” to closing with “Mansions”, Nash took the audience on a lyrical and musical journey. The stories told by some of the songs don’t always end “happily ever after.” But the joy (there’s that word again) in sharing (and that one) was evident from the get go. The influences of his father’s 45 collection, could be heard. And the experience Israel has developed while producing and recording at his own Plum Creek Sound is becoming more evident.
The interaction between Israel’s impressive vocals and the entire band’s musical talent could not be missed. The guitars again rang through the Turf Club and right out the door into the stormy night. With the rhythm section driving the songs and the pedal steel enriching them and stitching each song to the next, the set sped along. Occasional swigs of water and frequent thanks to the gathered fans were the only breaks. At one point between songs, Israel again showed his appreciation and thanked the crowd for giving a grown man an excuse to sit on the back porch, smoke weed, and write songs.
Everyone in the room was quite happy to continue providing those opportunities. The 2 song encore started with all 7 musicians on the stage covering a sprawling rendition of CSNY’s Ohio. Written in an era of growing unrest and divisiveness, the song feels increasingly relevant. As the performance concluded and the crowd started thinning out, I was taken back to a lyric from
earlier in the evening. Looking ahead to a hoped for return engagement in the Twin Cities all I can say to Israel Nash is “I’ve got the money if you’ve got the time.”