John Moreland at Space in Evanston, IL

John Moreland was joined by Ken Pomeroy at Space for a night that showcased the raw emotion and beauty great singer-songwriters can conjure. 

If ever there was a perfect choice for a John Moreland opening act, this was it. Especially since Ken Pomeroy actually lists Moreland as one of her influences. The talent Ken exudes is incredible for someone of such a young age. From the moment she stepped onto the stage, she captivated the audience. She injected snippets of context and humor in between each of her songs, again ingratiating herself to the audience. Ken’s song “Cicadas” was very apt given the current situation in the Midwest. 

The term “triple threat” is banded around a little too often, but it really is the ideal description of Ken Pomeroy. Her voice is enchanting and it’s incredible to know how long she has already been writing such meaningful, emotive lyrics given she’s still only 22. Indeed, to include a song in your set that you penned when you were only 14 years old and for that song to be the complete package in terms of lyrics, melody, and composition is a truly remarkable feat. Add to that her beautiful guitar work, complemented by Dakota McDaniel, and you have the full package right here. Ken’s finger-picking style is actually somewhat reminiscent of John Moreland, making her the perfect addition to the lineup for this tour. Keep an eye out for Ken, she is an artist you will no doubt be seeing a lot more of her over the years to come.

The merch table for John Moreland had an impressive array of items for sale, however, there was one that really caught our eye. It was a t-shirt that said, “I got into a fight with a person who wouldn’t stop talking at a John Moreland show.” The ironic thing is, having seen Moreland perform a good number of times, we can quite honestly say that, these days, crowds at his shows are the quietest, most respectful that you will ever come across. You could hear a pin drop. It is eerie and amazing to experience a show where not a single person chats throughout your favorite song(s). Instead, 100% of everyone’s attention is fixed firmly on the stage, wanting to soak up every moment they get with the Tulsa, OK, songwriter. It doesn’t just apply to smaller venues either. A particularly special memory is of John casting his spell over the entire festival audience in McFarland Park at 2022’s Shoals Fest with the sun setting over the Tennessee River. That is one set that we’re certain will live long in the memory of anyone who was lucky enough to be there. 

If you have followed Loud Hailer’s coverage of John over the years, you will know that we are of the opinion that he is truly one of the best singer-songwriters alive today. Lyrically, his songs have a beautiful poetic slant whilst simultaneously telling you a story. It’s no easy feat to write the kind of songs Moreland does because pure poetry itself, typically, doesn’t work well as song lyrics (unless maybe you are Leonard Cohen). John, however, has the knack of getting the blend just right and also has a talent for leaving enough room/space in his lyrics to allow his listeners to interpret the songs as they choose in relation to their own lives and experiences. When you pair this with his ear for melody, fingerpicked guitar accompaniment, and a voice that could melt butter even if he was just singing you the phone book, you have something extremely special. This run of shows features just him and his trusty Martin acoustic and it’s a fantastic way to see him perform… a line direct to the source, so to speak.

John’s latest album, Visitor, was released on vinyl on Friday but it was released on Spotify in April, giving people plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the new music prior to the show. The album, which was somewhat of a surprise release, was written and recorded at home while John took a break from the spotlight for a year, and it really showcases him at his very best. Thoughtful lyrics see him wrestling with some of what is going on in the world around him (and all of us) today and are set against some beautiful acoustic guitar parts. There are only a couple of other musicians present on the record with regular collaborator John Calvin Abney providing some guitar on one track and his wife Pearl providing vocals on another. For a record that was recorded, mixed, and produced at home by John, the production value is fantastic (though he is no stranger to recording this way so we would expect no less at this point) and puts his voice front and center, really drawing you into the songs. There was a good amount of new material included in the set, such as the title track, “Blue Dream Carolina,” and “Gentle Violence,” and it was noticeable from the mouthing of lyrics and tapping of feet how many of the audience already seemed to be intimately acquainted with these songs. Of course, favorites such as “3:59,” “Cherokee,” and “Gospel” were also included, much to the delight of the crowd. 

Having seen Moreland perform in various venues over the years, it has to be said that Space in Evanston is the perfect setting for one of his shows. It’s intimate and relaxed, the room always sounds great, and you feel like you’re in a room of like-minded friends you just haven’t met yet. Before he took to the stage, people were discussing how many times they had seen him perform before, which ranged from this being their first time to many we would qualify as seasoned professionals! After the show, people would check in with their newly friended neighbors to discuss just how great the night had been. 

Moreland has a number of tour dates throughout the year, right through until October. We can’t stress this enough – go and get tickets to see him on this tour. Imagine if you miss the opportunity to see him this time and he takes a hiatus again after this tour, meaning you have to wait another year… In John’s own words, there ain’t no glory in regret.

JOHN MORELAND
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KEN POMEROY
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SPACE
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About Kirstine Walton 383 Articles
Kirstine moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, and has fallen in love with the city and its music scene. She enjoys combining her two biggest passions – music and photography. If there is a band with a guitar playing, chances are she’ll be there…camera in hand. Kirstine went to her first live concert at 7 years old, and hasn’t looked back since!