Jon Batiste Brings A Passion-Filled Party To A Completely Sold-Out First Avenue


Photos by Laura Buhman; Words by Langen Goldstien

When covering concerts, you can typically find me in a back corner, furiously taking notes on my phone. It’s not that I’m not paying attention to the show– quite the opposite. I try to catch every little nod and every crooked smile while jotting down words that those tiny details make me feel. It helps when it comes to the following day and I sit at my desk to write a review. Sometimes I don’t even look at the notes because I remember everything so vividly. Other times, all I do is rephrase my notes into sentences that make sense because exhaustion levels are so high. There wasn’t a single moment during the show on Thursday night when I even looked at my phone. This is a double-edged sword. Clearly, it means I was so captivated by the show that I couldn’t find the time to glance at my phone. On the other side, this means I have no notes. I can’t tell you what songs I heard or anything like that, but I can tell you that Thursday night with Jon Batiste at an uber-sold-out First Avenue was like living in a dream.

If you haven’t heard of Jon Batiste, I can only assume that you have been living under a rock. That being said, let me still give you a quick background on this amazing human. Jon Batiste is a little bit of everything. A singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer, television personality– the list goes on and on. From his solo stuff to his work on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert all the way to his multiple Grammy wins (including album of the year in 2022), Jon has quickly become a household name, and that’s due to his talent and the grind that he seems to be on constantly. Out of everyone hitting it big in the music industry these days, I feel like I really look up to Jon and how it’s clear that he has worked his butt off to get where he is today and still comes off as very humble even with all of the fame and accolades circling him.

Before I talk about the show, I want to give you one last tidbit about Jon. He is part of the Batiste family, which, if you ask me, is one of the few remaining music dynasties out there. If you have some time, I highly suggest you look into this family. The amount of talent that flows through the Batiste world is insane, and although Jon has worked hard to get where he is today, there is something in his blood due to his family line that has given him the drive and talent that he has today. It’s a super interesting dive into the history of New Orleans (and beyond) music.

Now to the show. After a slight delay due to the sheer number of people trying to get into the utterly sold-out show, the house lights went down, and Jon and his truly stellar band took the stage. When I got my first glimpse of the superstar, it took my breath away. I honestly couldn’t tell you why other than the fact that I knew I was about to see pure gold on stage. Honestly, this was the first time I had felt this way since the first time I saw Prince when I first moved to Minneapolis. (Fun fact- Jon Batiste and his band did a stunning “Purple Rain” cover during the encore.) It’s just this feeling of complete euphoria and that sense that you must be dreaming. After just a few seconds, I truly thought about turning to a friend next to me and asking him to pinch me. It was surreal that I was standing here, watching this man, an idol of mine, pour his heart onto the stage right in front of me.

Jon’s heart was absolutely on display on Thursday night. I don’t know if it was the charm of Prince that had been left in First Avenue years ago or what, but Jon came off as a true superstar while, overall, having an almost understated performance. Sure, there were bright lights and a little pomp and circumstance, but overall, it was just Jon and his incredible band on that stage playing their hearts out. Every member on that stage deserves a massive round of applause and a pat on the back. Nobody got lost in the mix and everybody had a chance to shine, not just Jon. This doesn’t surprise me at all because of the aura that Jon seems to have about him, but it would have been so easy for him to make the show all about himself. I loved the way he let the audience enjoy the sound and performance as a whole.

Another thing Jon didn’t have to do but did on Thursday night was break down the barrier between the band and the audience. Jon, the Grammy award winner, and his band left the stage and took to the audience at the end of the performance. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of bands do this but, for someone like Jon to do this at the humble little club that is First Avenue (okay, it’s not that little but it was a super intimate show for such a superstar) truly shows the connection he has with his fans and followers. As I mentioned, being at this show on Thursday was like living in a dream, and this was one of those moments where I really thought I would hear the sound of one of my cats hacking up a hairball and realize that I wasn’t actually here, this wasn’t actually happening, and I wasn’t actually experiencing this magical moment.

I could sit here and complain about how I felt that the audience was lamer than lame. It was an older crowd, so that wasn’t that surprising, but the music of Jon Batiste is so bombastic and full of life. I don’t understand how anyone could just stand there rather than let the music make them move, but focusing in on that aspect of the night doesn’t do the performance justice. Honestly, the crowd could have all been laying on the ground taking naps for all I care. It wouldn’t stop me from feeling the music all the way down to my soul.

Thursday night was a rougher than rough day for me. It was one of those days when, after driving home from my day job with no music playing in my car, I just sat in my garage for a couple of minutes and bawled. Having a day like that end with the passion, power, love, fire, and energy I got from seeing Jon Batiste perform live is a perfect example of why I do this night after night.