As the audience trickled into the Sinclair, it seemed that no one had any idea what to expect from Laraaji, the opening act for the Jonathan Wilson show. He shuffled out on stage toward a small table, draped with a tapestry, just slightly off center. For the next 45 minutes, Laraaji took the audience on a spiritual journey, plucking his electronic zither with closed eyes and a soft demeanor. Just as everyone began to grow used to the seemingly straightforward, meditation-like soundscape he was presenting, Laraaji surprised us all when he started accompanying his stringed instrument with laughter. He placed his chuckle in different registers, and recited spoken word poetry over the ambience he had so effortlessly produced. He spoke of gardens laced with innocence, and the audience hung on the every word. My favorite song was more involved lyrically – telling the story of a man named “Cosmic Joe” and his journey to find a mystical place. Overall, Laraaji’s performance was a wild ride and entertaining to say the least.
Once Jonathan Wilson walked on stage, beginning with the song “Trafalgar Square” off of his most recent album, the whole vibe in the room changed. 70s-psychedelic graphics reminiscent of the album art on the cover of Rare Birds were projected behind the band as Wilson casually tapped his knee and swayed to the music. The band played really well together, but the real highlight for me was Wilson’s guitar skills, as well as the variety of petals he utilized (specifically in the performance of “Dear Friend”). Playing almost exclusively songs from Rare Birds, the whole energy of the concert was fairly laid back. One of my favorite moments was when they played “Miriam Montague”, with its catchy piano line, thumping bass, and super interesting arrangement with juxtaposing sections. Laraaji’s performance and general presence seemed to finally click into place when he ended up joined Wilson on stage for “Loving You”. An obvious crowd favorite was “Dessert Raven” – the crowd went wild upon hearing its iconic guitar riff (shout out to the couple next to me absolutely killing it with their interpretive dance moves).
Overall, the concert was chill and enjoyable. The room was filled by the climax of the setlist, and the audience was really engaged the whole time Wilson was on stage. Wilson’s sound is familiar, yet not entirely possible to compare – a balance a lot of artists are eager to achieve. Although the Sinclair was Wilsons last American venue before heading over to Europe, it is never to late to check out Rare Birds, and I would definitely recommend that you do so.