Review: John Craigie at SOhO
By Rebecca Horrigan
Folk singer John Craigie delighted audience members who nestled into their seats and remained in rapt attention during his intimate SOhO show on November 22. Part comedy set, part philosophical exercise, Craigie’s performance was fused with personality and, most importantly, plenty of powerful music.
Craigie’s show was part of a two-night residency at the venue. As part of his “Keep it Warm” tour, each ticket sold provided $1 to Planting Justice, an organization aimed at empowering people affected by mass incarceration and other social inequities to develop food sovereignty and economic justice.
Openers the Shook Twins set the tone for a fun and freewheeling night with their joyful indie folk and later came back out to sing backing vocals and play with Craigie in true family spirit.
Craigie’s compassion was felt not just through his efforts to donate ticket sales to an important cause, but in his heartfelt lyrics. Songs like crowd favorite “Dissect the Bird” included inspirational messages, such as “the universe is not against you.” His words of hope never felt contrived, as they were usually blended with his particular brand of often self-deprecating humor. For example, “Dissect the Bird” starts with Craigie worrying if his fly is open as he ruminates, “I swore I checked it, before I went on, Maybe that was last night, I just can’t recall.” However, this little moment of insecurity builds into something bigger. At the climax of the song, Craigie’s passionate plucking feeds the intensity of his words of wisdom, “you don’t have to be perfect/ you don’t have to be a saint/ just don’t waste it/ this was not a mistake.”
Other highlights from the show included Craigie’s beautiful ballad, “I Am California,” and his rollicking “Presidential Silver Lining” in which he explains the upside to our unfortunate administration noting, “artists are better when they’re bummed.” The political commentary continued with his comical song “AOC,” in which Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is comically described as a witch. Craigie wrote the number as a parody in response to the Religious Right group Intercessors for America’s President Dave Kubal who accused Cortez of casting spells on President Trump all day. The audience writhed in a sea of laughs, grateful for the comedic relief to tough times.
Craigie’s harmonica-fueled “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man” had the audience swaying in their seats and stomping along. The Shook Twins lovely backing vocals melded sweetly with Craigie’s husky sound. Attendees excitedly chanted the refrain “Ain’t it a shame. Nobody sets anybody free anymore,” with a vigor that convinced me they weren’t just singing but pondering those words at work in their lives.
Craigie’s spirited show highlighted the magic of music: at once personal and universal --- always containing the power to set us free.