Kevin Morby performs at 9:30 Club on Oct. 22, 2022. (Photos by Casey Vock)
“This is the latest I’ve ever been up,” Kevin Morby joked when he took the stage at the 9:30 Club just after 11pm on a Saturday night. It was a cheeky comment, and one I’m sure was meant in jest.
But it was late, and it was a bit crazy around the venue, as the lights at the roundabout next to the club appeared to have failed, and nearby Howard University was having its homecoming. Getting an Uber home after the show — which ended too late to take the metro — required a bit of a hike to meet my ride.
The show itself, though, was great at 9:30 Club on Oct. 22, highlighted by songs from Morby’s latest album, This Is A Photograph. Released in May, it’s regarded the strongest work — and Morby’s albums have all been considered strong — by the Kansas City, Missouri-raised, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter. Morby and I have KC in common; I lived on the Kansas side until I was five years old, and I respect the strong midwestern streak in his work — there’s no denying the influence of Dylan in what he does. He’s not a folk artist; he operates at the intersection of indie rock and singer-songwriter styles. The music was loud Saturday night (and into very early Sunday morning), but not too loud, and it didn’t overpower or bury the lyrics, which are always a focus of his music.
Stream This Is A Photograph by Kevin Morby on Spotify:
Speaking of the balance between vocals and instruments, the opening act, the band Coco, got this right, too. Too many bands that write great songs do themselves a disservice by making it next to impossible to understand their singing, and I appreciated that both acts at this show understood their audience wanted to follow the words.
At 9:30 Club, Kevin and his band started the set with material from the latest LP, beginning with the title cut, which was inspired by finding a picture in a box of old things in his parents’ house. After “Random Acts of Kindness,” he played “Bittersweet, TN.” Memphis and the ghost of Jeff Buckley in particular haunt this album. The whole record has a strong sense of place in middle America, and it belongs, thematically at least, to the Americana genre. “Five Easy Pieces” refers, clearly, to the film from the 1970s starring Jack Nicholson, about an oil worker who also happens to be a talented pianist. During this song, Morby left the stage, microphone in hand, and sang from the front of the audience pit.
The last of the new songs was “Rock Bottom,” and then Morby went into old songs: “Stop Before I Cry,” “Campfire,” “Wander,” “No Halo,” and “Piss River.” He dedicated “City Music” to the District of Columbia, then rounded out the set with “I Have Been To The Mountain,” “Dorothy,” and “A Coat of Butterflies,” finishing the set with “Goodbye to Good Times.”
For his encore, Kevin performed “Beautiful Strangers” and the title cut of his first solo LP, “Harlem River.”
The show was very late, but it was worth staying up to see one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation for the first time. The newest material really shined, highlighting how his craft has reached a new level.
The new album, This Is a Photograph, and its theme of exploring old pictures inspired Morby to encourage photographers to bring film to shoot his show. Parklife DC’s Casey Vock did just that, and we have the photos below.
Here are some photos of Kevin Morby performing at 9:30 Club on Oct. 22, 2022. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.