ALBANY — It was an all-Midwest bill at The Egg on Thursday night, with Wisconsin’s Trapper Schoepp and the Shades opening for the Jayhawks, the influential alt-country band who formed in Minneapolis in 1985.
The Jayhawks have been on-again-off-again since their start, with founding vocalists/guitarists Mark Olson and Gary Louris — noted for their gifted songwriting and shimmering harmonies — sometimes playing together, sometimes not, over the course of eight acclaimed albums, multiple personnel changes and a few hiatuses.
In July, the Jayhawks reissued three of their albums released between 1997 and 2003 — “Sound of Lies,” “Smile” and “Rainy Day Music” — all from a period when Olson was not in the band. They also reunited their 1997 touring lineup (Louris on lead guitar/vocals; Tim O’Reagan on drums; Kraig Johnson on guitar; Marc Perlman on bass and Karen Grotberg on keyboards) with the addition of mandolinist John Jackson to play shows in support of the reissues.
Despite Olson’s absence, and the fact that earlier classic albums like “Hollywood Town Hall” and “Tomorrow the Green Grass” got minor play, there was nothing missing from the Jayhawks’ performance at The Egg. From the opening pairing of the lush, pop-fueled “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and the elegiac “The Man Who Loved Life,” the band sounded in fine form — rich and warm.
They also seemed to have great fun throughout the show, which had been downsized to The Egg’s smaller Lewis A. Swyer Theatre but appeared to be a full house. Band members joked onstage about fining each other for violations like playing out of tune, and Louris made a crack about the band’s age, saying he could put together a primer on “touring for seniors.”
“Is this an uncomfortable moment for you? Because I like these moments — just to show that we’re human,” Louris joked after stopping “Stumbling Through the Dark” to tune his guitar before launching into a perfect-sounding version of the blissful Byrds-like tune.
But there were few missteps during a life-affirming, well-received performance that included beautiful versions of “Take Me With You [When You Go],” “Waiting for the Sun” and “Blue,” as well as a joyous encore of Golden Smog’s “Until You Came Along” with members of Trapper Schoepp’s band joining the Jayhawks onstage.
Milwaukee’s Trapper Schoepp recently shook up his own lineup, embarking on this tour with a different version of his band the Shades. When the crew played a Haiti relief benefit at Hudson’s Club Helsinki in 2013, they were a straight-ahead rock band that put on a sweaty, hard-bashing show. For this tour, the Shades had a stripped-down, acoustic and much more rootsy sound, with Schoepp’s brother Tanner on “Beatle bass,” Gina Romantini on fiddle, Dustin Dobernig on keyboards, and no drummer.
Schoepp is a vivid songwriter, writing tunes about slices of real life. His too-brief set was filled with great tunes, from the opening “Tracks” to the meaningful “Run, Engine, Run,” about inheriting a car from his grandfather, who lived on a South Dakota farm.