Review: Son Volt with the North Mississippi All-Stars and Split Lip Rayfield

Oct. 8 in Westport

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Four months ago, Son Volt took the main stage at the Wakarusa Music Festival at Clinton Lake early on Friday afternoon. The sun was hot and the oversized crowd seemed more interested in talking to each other than paying attention to the music.
Saturday night’s show in the parking lot across the street from the Beaumont Club in Westport couldn’t have been more different. The sun was down and the temperature hovered around 40 degrees. The crowd of more than 1,500 people hung on every word of lead singer and songwriter Jay Farrar.
The Wakarusa show was one of the revamped Son Volt’s first shows together (only Farrar remains from the band’s original ’90s incarnation).
The band’s album “Okemah and the Melody of Riot” has also been on store shelves for a couple months now, giving the fans a chance to become familiar with the new material. Some in the crowd were even requesting the newer songs, which is always a good sign.
Farrar and his four-piece band played 10 of the album’s 12 songs, half of those coming as the show’s opening five numbers. But after that fifth song, Farrar announced “something from a long time ago.” The band launched into “Medicine Hat,” knowingly nodding at the material the most people came to hear. From there it was a sprinkling of more “Okemah” material alongside classic Son Volt songs from “Trace,” “Straightaways” and “Wide Swing Tremolo.”
If “Medicine Hat” hinted at the band’s best era, the new song “Medication” was the fulcrum on which the show’s momentum rest.
“Medication,” a Indian-influenced drone and one of “Okemah”’s stand-out cuts, ended with Farrar ferociously banging his fists against the body of his guitar as the rest of the band jammed. The song abruptly collided with “Route” from “Trace” and was the best one-two punch of the 90 minute set.
The steadily dropping temperature thinned the crowd considerably as the evening progressed. By the end of the night, the crowd’s brave remainders were either toasted or frosty, but all were rewarded.

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