Judah and the Lion rocks The Van Buren

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Judah and the Lion perform at The Van Buren on February 5, 2018 (photo by Greg Cohen)

Judah and the Lion drew a huge crowd to the Van Buren for a show that included Tall Heights and Colony House. Most impressive, though, was how early the crowd arrived. The room was pretty well packed prior to first band Tall Heights taking the stage, which is unusual for Phoenix fans.

 Judah and the Lion’s fans clearly dig their unique blend of hipster folk, with mandatory banjo, mandolin, and accordion, mixed with pop, rap and even a funky groove on occasion. Their genre-blending music is different. But in a good way.  In a way that’s not supposed to work at all but really kinda does. And work well. The band calls it folk-hop, a portmanteau of folk and hip-hop, which not coincidental, is in the title of their most recent album.  Judah and the Lion is touring in support of their 2017 release Folk Hop ‘N Roll Deluxe, which builds on their 2016 release of the same name.

Lead singer Caleb Chambers slips easily between folk and rap/hip-hop.  But the band’s strength lies in their more traditional folk/folk-rock oriented songs like Back’s Against the Wall, Green Eyes, and their big radio hit Take it All Back. While the rap and funk are interesting, the true soul of the band shines through on tracks that allowed the instruments, orchestration, and lyrics to shine through.  The folk-rock, though, really makes the most of the mandolin played by Brian MacDonald and banjo played by Nate Zuercher.

Judah and the Lion puts on an interesting, well-polished show.  They played together, and play off each other, incredibly well.  Chambers enjoys an easy rapport with the crowd, at one point dividing the room in half for a sing-off.  He also ventured off the stage and through the crowd to stand on and sing from atop the bar lining the side of The Van Buren.  It was an intimate moment between Chambers and the fans and went over really well.  And if the only song you had heard of their going into the show was Take it all Back, and that’s the song you came to hear, the band truly delivered, turning a folk-rock song into a huge, feel-good, lengthy, joyful anthem.

It was Colony House’s first night in the tour with Judah and the Lion. The played a rousing version of the Killers Mr. Bright side with Judah and the Lion.  The song has been a staple on the current tour and it was pretty slick hearing both bands play it together.  Colony House is touring in support of its sophomore album Only the Lonely.

 Tall Heights opened the show.  The folk rock duo is touring in support of their 2016 big-label release Neptune.

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