Live Review

Big Bad Luv Puts Songwriter In Decade's Best Conversation

John Moreland on June 3, 2017

The tiny Tavern room of Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom was at capacity and then some in anticipation of John Moreland making his second stop touring behind his latest release Big Bad Luv on Saturday night.  Accompanied on stage by John Calvin Abney who layered guitar, piano, harmonica, and harmony vocals, Moreland delivered a nineteen song set that from beginning to end had people uttering the word “genius” to his songwriting talent.        

Big Bad Luv was recorded at Fellowship Fall Sound in Little Rock with Abney on piano/guitar, Aaron Boehler on bass, Paddy Ryan on drums,  Jared Tyler on dobro, and Rick Steff on piano.   Produced by Moreland and mixed by Tchad Blake, the process took three separate sessions over ten months in-between touring dates with the final tracking sequence roughly in the order that the songs were written.  The album is part of British independent record label 4AD, that was started in 1980 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, and quite a distance from his stomping grounds in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

With his follow-up to the critically acclaimed  2015 release High On Tulsa Heat, Moreland was a man of few words between songs but did let the crowd know he was dedicating tonight’s set to the Cleveland Cavaliers as he took a seat onstage.   Opening with “Sallisaw Blue” and “Old Wounds” from the new Lp, he immediately had the faithful in the palm of his hand when they sang along on “Oh Julia” from the 2013 release In The Throes.  Songs were dripping life lesson imagery phrases with songs like “Lies I Chose to Believe” with Well I’ve gone and lost my faith in photographs /Cursed those martyrs that mark my past or from “No Glory in Regret” as Moreland sang And God’s been making deals / While we’re down here spinning our wheels.  From my vantage point watching Moreland over his left shoulder against the railing hugging the side of the stage, I could see the emotion and focus he put forward with every song.   To truly appreciate his work, sit down in a comfortable chair, relax, and focus on the words to understand how beautiful a lyricist in this decade of songwriters John Moreland has become.  He mixed old and new compositions with “Hearts Too Heavy”, “Gospel”, Gods Medicine”, and one number from 2011’s Earthbound Blues titled “Avalon”.  The rest of the set included “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)”  ”, “Love is Not an Answer” with a beautiful piano solo from Abney, “Sad Baptist Rain”, “American Flags in Black and White”, “3:59am”, “Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore”, “Cherokee”, and the last song “Amen, So Be It” rounded out the main portion of the show.  After a brief pause, Moreland returned for the encore and offered his appreciation to the crowd who embraced him and gave heartfelt applauses throughout the performance.  The final two songs “Break My Heart Sweetly” and “I Need You to Tell Me Who I Am” closed out the concert. 

John Moreland will be bouncing around the US and Canada through mid-August before departing to do six weeks in Europe.  Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to witness in person the same experience Cleveland concert goers happily were treated to.