LIVE: Gregory Alan Isakov and Patty Griffin Juxtaposed at Troy Music Hall, 10/15/2021

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TROY — On a drizzly autumn evening in Troy, we headed to Troy Savings Music Hall to enjoy intimate performances by Gregory Alan Isakov and Patty Griffin. The historic music hall offers one of the best listening rooms in the country, a perfect setting for such organically gorgeous music. While Jim and I had not listened to Isakov much, we both are huge fans of Griffin. Her last performance at the Hall left us longing for more of her honey soaked voice.

Isakov opened the evening with his colleague Steve Varney. The two shared a microphone and these beautifully interlaced harmonies while playing banjo and guitar. The audience greeted them warmly as Isakov stated, “We feel like the luckiest people ever. Thank you so much.”

Photo by Jim Gilbert

The humble Colorado duo played with sound, using dissonance in a surprisingly pleasing way. With their third song, “Dark, dark, dark,” Isakov shared he wanted to “get the happiest song of the night out of the way.” And while the themes of their songs were about heartbreak, loneliness, and despair, the tonality and lushness of their sound was mesmerizing. Isakov called it a”God noise” when Varney would pluck an electric guitar string and leave the sound open via a wah-wah pedal, and the resulting sound offered a layered sound against deeply cavernous lyrics.

Perhaps the favorite song of the night was the duo’s “Second Chances,” a song about forgiveness, or as Isakov joked, “a song about fucking up.” It was hard to miss the duo’s respect for one another and overall joyfulness, even as they played songs with quite the opposite emotion.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Troy Savings offers musicians an acoustic nirvana; the sounds they can produce and explore there are like no other venue. Isakov leaned into this, bending sound and using ironically sensuous music paired with content focusing on raw emotions.

During the break, fans circulated the music hall and remarked on Isakov’s talent, and the extreme heat in the hall. Wearing masks, fans were clearly red faced and sweaty after this first set. Many were drinking complimentary water offered by the venue to care for the guests.

After a very brief break, Patty Griffin entered the darkened stage to sit at the piano accompanied by a mug of tea. She opened with her luscious voice, and although it was hot in the room, fans quieted and settled in to enjoy this seasoned musician’s talent.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

But something was simply off. With “Flaming” and “Bluebeard,” Griffin sounded scratchy; she was raspy. And as the night wore on, her usually rich vocals and technical guitar playing seemed off, making many wonder if she wasn’t feeling well. The music was atypically hard to enjoy, and somewhat off balance as well.

Young fans who came to see Isakov left early into the set, which was sad because they may never know how absolutely lovely Griffin’s voice can be if that was their first exposure. But the environmental discomfort of the heat paired with the rarely discordant sound coming from Griffin made it a hard sell.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Isakov’s lush sound was juxtaposed with Griffin’s tired vocals. Interested fans should look for him later this month at Levon Helm’s Barn where he will be headlining. And if Griffin comes back, fans are urged to try her again. Everyone is entitled to an off night. Even the indelible Patty Griffin.

4 Comments
  1. […] Nippertown: LIVE: Gregory Alan Isakov and Patty Griffin Juxtaposed at Troy Music Hall, 10/15/2021 […]

  2. Philip Orton says

    We heard Patty in a virtual concert during COVID and had the same impression. It is likely related to her bout with cancer a few years ago, when she apparently completely lost her voice and needed to relearn how to sing. She needs to adjust her song choices or something. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if she acknowledged her voice isn’t what it used to be at the start of her set, so people aren’t confused and think something is “off” – she’s still 95% the amazing artist she always was, if she can just make adjustments (and maybe manage expectations).

  3. Philip Orton says

    We ae huge longtime fans and heard Patty in a virtual concert during COVID and had the same impression. It is likely related to her bout with cancer a few years ago, when she apparently completely lost her voice and needed to relearn how to sing. She may need to adjust her song choices. It wouldn’t be offputting or confusing if she acknowledged her voice isn’t what it used to be at the start of her set, so people aren’t confused and think something is “off” – she’s still 95% the amazing artist she always was, if she can just make adjustments (and maybe manage expectations).

  4. […] graceParklife DC: Live Review: Patty Griffin and Gregory Alan Isakov @ The Birchmere — 10/11/21Nippertown: LIVE: Gregory Alan Isakov and Patty Griffin Juxtaposed at Troy Music Hall, 10/15/2021Atwood Magazine: An Evening Beyond The Earth: Gregory Alan Isakov and […]

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