Patty Griffin has been on the road with her new, self-titled record and the tour brought her to Philadelphia on Thursday night, leading her trio at an almost packed Union Transfer. Before then though, Nashville based, singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly took the stage. Kelly is also currently touring with a new album, Dying Star, released in 2018.
It was clear from a big cheer at the start of Kelly’s opening set that plenty of Patty Griffin’s fans were already familiar with his music. He had another guitar player with him whom he introduced as Tim “TK” Kelly, also known as Ruston Kelly’s biological father. His setlist was made up mostly of the songs off his debut record (as one could expect) with a few quick, informal Q&A interactions in between songs.
When Kelly sang “Got a half lit smoke good, God I’m broke / But I gotta make it back to Germantown” in the middle of his song ‘Faceplant’ he got a loud cheer. I don’t know if he was actually referring to Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood (as much as I’d love it if he was, I’m not quite sure about that – based on the rest of the song) but like good Philadelphians, they cheered at anything that could possibly be related to their city! Later in his set Kelly talks briefly on his appreciation for Patty Griffin, stating quite simply: “Patty Griffin rules!” Which was quickly followed up with a fan replying, “You’re not too shabby yourself!”
“There sure are a lot of you, but I feel like we’re in my living room.” Patty Griffin shared this feeling with her fans Thursday night during her set, and it sums up the night perfectly. Griffin kicked off with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland,” which of course everyone loved. Then cahe her own songs, leading off with “The Wheel.” The majority of her set was made up of songs off her self-titled new record. We were able to appreciate her wonderful songwriting and beautiful voice as she alternated between some slower songs and some more upbeat songs, to keep us entertained from beginning to end. Other than one tiny audio glitch during a song mid-set (which Griffin was able to sing straight through beautifully, by the way) the night was pretty much flawless. By a few songs later, most of the audience had most likely forgotten that there was any glitch at all!
Griffin had the full attention of every single person in the room. She sang two solo songs early in the set; telling a brief story about being jet lagged in Europe and having a dream about Billie Holiday which went on to inspire “Had a Good Reason” (the first solo song she played). It’s a rare moment when Union Transfer has a crowd as silent as this one was while being told that story, and that attentiveness continued through the song itself. Afterwards, one fan broke the silence with an in-the-moment reaction, exclaiming “beautiful!” In contrast, the next solo song Griffin played, “Long Ride Home,” had the audience singing a long at times. Later in the set, Griffin reminisced about growing up in Old Town, Maine, before going into her new song “Where I Come From.” This was followed by the more upbeat “Move Up” to take things up a notch again and even add some fun gospel vibes to the set.
Patty Griffin was all smiles the whole night which gave her a great stage presence. Then towards the end she announced to us “I love my job. Thank you for giving it to me,”, which actually surprised me a bit to hear from her as she’s been at it for so many years now. Then again, it’s nice to hear people who have been in the industry for so long still being so genuinely humble about their career.
Check out the full set list and photo gallery below!
Jungleland (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Boys From Tralee
Had a Good Reason (solo)
Long Ride Home (solo)
Where I Came From
When It Don’t Come Easy
Shine a Different Way
Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)
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