Home Live Review Live Review: Langhorne Slim and John Craigie @ The Birchmere — 4/20/23

Live Review: Langhorne Slim and John Craigie @ The Birchmere — 4/20/23

Live Review: Langhorne Slim and John Craigie @ The Birchmere — 4/20/23
Langhorn Slim and John Craigie perform together at The Birchmere on April 20, 2023. (Photo by Steve Satzberg)

Folk musicians Langhorne Slim and John Craigie met at the Newport Folk Festival in 2021. As Slim explained, “there was no hierarchy” there, and there was no hierarchy when they played The Birchmere Thursday night. Craigie went first for the utterly logical reason that Slim was wearing a white suit.

Craigie, who grew up in California and lives in Portland, Oregon, began the show with “Dissect The Bird,” a song that slams musicians who complain about their job. As he tells it in the song, his job before music was “picking up trash,” which attracted “no audience.” (I don’t know; maybe he needs to work on his garbage collection technique, add a few moves to his repertoire. I recommend checking out the work of Duke “The Dumpster” Droese from mid-’90s wrestling.)

Between songs, John mentioned being on Cayamo, a music-theme cruised featuring singer-songwriters. “We’re still going to the Bahamas,” he said, “but everyone’s going to be sad.” After “Live With Less,” he talked about some of his unusual experiences with the sound engineers at shows, particularly one who kept giving him encouragement through the monitor, then demanded a song about Gummy Bears, which Craigie absolutely does not have. The sound guy at The Birchmere, he assured us, is “cool.”

Though he’s “always nervous to play new music,” Craigie played “Helena” from last year’s Mermaid Salt album.

Watch John Craigie perform “Helena” live for Jam in the Van via YouTube:

John loves every city, he said, where he gets “paid to play guitar,” but sometimes, he added, different places have feuds between them. Once, he was playing in Alabama, and he was he set to head to Monroe, Louisiana, the next night; he was warned not to say “roll tide” there. This was, he said, not a problem, as he had no intention of mentioning college football. This was all a prelude to “Suck It, Philly;” “I love Philly,” he explained, “but one night Philly didn’t love me back.” (If you want to see Philly get absolutely roasted, I recommend looking up Bill Burr’s 15-minute onstage rant from several years ago.)

Langhorne Slim joined John for the next song, “Don’t Ask,” which is about “hanging with your ex.” John suggested that people who get along with their exes are “liars,” which seems a little harsh; my ex and I talk frequently and still spend time together. (Of course, I occasionally send her a spicy photo to remind her of just what she’s missing.)

Several years ago, Craigie opened for Todd Snider. A line stretches back from Todd, he said, through John Prine to Kris Kristofferson to Johnny Cash, and John saw this as his opportunity to join that line. But as he sings in “I Almost Stole Some Weed From Todd Snider,” they barely talked. “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine” recounted the tale of a delusional man, and Craigie filled the set with “Laurie Rolled Me a J.”

Langhorne Slim grew up about as far from Craigie as he could have — in the Philadelphia suburb of Langhorne, from which he takes his name. In exciting news, he shared that he has a baby on the way, which excited and surprised him. He seems like a sweet guy, and I’m sure that kid is going to get as much love as anybody.

The set was heavy on tunes from his latest album, last year’s Strawberry Mansion. Written in April and May of 2020, during the Covid lockdown, the album grapples with mental health struggles, aging, and achieving maturity. Langhorne began his set with the ballad “I Offer Myself To Thee,” followed by “Love You Forever” and “Changes.” “Never Break” raised the theme of resilience.

Watch an acoustic performance of “Never Break” by Langhorne Slim on YouTube:

“House of My soul” was recorded as a duet with Jill Andrews. To sing it, Langhorne called for an assist, and Jenny, from the audience, joined on the stage. She took a couple of selfies, prompting me to say, “She’s definitely not a plant!” Langhorne quipped, “You must think we’re doing pretty well if we have plants.” Not really; I’ve just had my head wrapped around pro wrestling too much for a novel I’m working on, and I’m suspicious that everything is a fabrication.

Later, John joined Langhorne on “Sea of Love,” after which Slim continued with “Private Property.”

Growing up near Philly, Langhorne was very curiously to all of his grandparents. Every time I’ve seen him, he talks about them, and it’s clear how special they were, and how important to him. “Red Bird” captures some of his youth.

Slim finished his set with “The Way We Move,” and both artists came out for an encore. They started with the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”  They did one of John’s songs, “I Am California,” followed by Slim’s “Mighty Soul,” ending the show with “What A Wonderful World.”

Here are some photos of John Craigie and Langhorne Slim performing at The Birchmere on April 20, 2022. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.

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