Apparently at home in being home, Mark Charles Heidinger — better known to the indie folk-pop faithful as Vandaveer — remarked that it would suit him fine to simply finish out his current tour right where he was.
“So just buy your tickets for Providence and New York,” he said last night during a sold out Sunday Sessions concert at the Downtown Arts Center. “We’ll meet right here.”
Heidinger, now based out of Louisville after a lengthy residency in the Washington, DC area, wasn’t just giving a nod to friends and family from his native Lexington. He cut Vandaveer’s newest album, The Wild Mercury, here and is currently touring with a band made up almost exclusively of familiar Lexington hands (guitarist J. Tom Hnatow, bassist Blake Cox and drummer Robby Cosenza). The homecoming feel, not surprisingly, was deep and pervasive.
Mostly, though, the intimate sit-down environment of the program provided a splendid opportunity to showcase The Wild Mercury in a performance setting. Heidinger, longtime co-vocalist Rose Guerin and their Lexington brethren summoned eight of the album’s 10 songs, playing heavily to their melodic pop strengths, the confessional folk nature of Heidinger’s narratives and instrumentation that was often sublimely executed.
The opening A Little Time Off Ahead enforced the pop side of the new Vandaveer music with a Beatle-esque lyrical stride and a sturdy wash of electric guitar from Hnatow. Vocally, the hooks and harmonies within the highly affirmative But Enough On That For Now (“Life is such a temporary thing… it is absolutely cruel and beautiful”) asserted the Vandaveer quintet’s nicely expanded, but powerfully efficient ensemble sound.
But for sheer invention, nothing topped Holding Patterns, which tagged Heidinger’s tale of a stalled and aged romance (“It feels like gambling, like going out on a limb, on a high wire, with clipped wings”) to Vandaveer’s most commanding instrumental accent, the pedal steel accompaniment of Hnatow. The latter’s solo seemed to echo far beyond the DAC’s walls before bringing the tune to slow, cinematic fade. It was a tough call as which — the vocals or the steel sounds — possessed a greater longing.
There were older Vandaveer nuggets, as well, including an eerily elegant Spite (again with Hantow’s pedal steel work as the prime orchestration) and a séance-like sing-a-long encore version of Dig Down Deep. But this night for Vandaveer was all about The Wild Mercury and making the newest songs and sounds of a proudly progressive folkie sound right at home.
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com