Sweeping in like a summery Memphis breeze, Valerie June warmed the souls of Chicago concert-goers during her Feb. 15 performance at The Vic Theatre. Plucky guitars, eloquent verses and the Americana Goddess’ one-of-a-kind Tennessee twang melded together to create truly joyful music that nourished the spirit.
The evening began with an authentic and ethereal performance from the husband and wife duo Birds of Chicago. From song to song, JT Nero and Allison Russell evoked feelings of togetherness in this evermore separate world, culminating with a traditional folk sing-along during the closing tune “American Flowers.” Earlier in the set, fans were nearly brought to tears during a heart-wrenching rendition of “Barley” – dedicated to those taken too soon by violence – and Russell and Nero’s harmonies wrapped fans in a sonic blanket during the upbeat lullaby “Flying Dreams.”
“The Hour” – slinky and smooth – served as the perfect opening number for June’s set as she weaved in and out of its instrumental prelude with slow scat singing. “Thank you, Chicago. I like coming here in February,” she said with a smile before diving into “The Order of Time” waltz “Love You Once Made.” As June alternated between guitars and banjos throughout the concert, her incredible backing band added all the right flourishes – from vibrato-filled organs to the glissandos of the slide guitar to the gentle brush patterns of the drums – perfectly enhancing the live compositions.
“Tennessee Time,” “You Can’t Be Told” and “Workin’ Woman Blues” – the latter of which was dedicated to all the Goddesses in the audience – all highlighted the range of June’s 2013 debut album “Pushin’ Against A Stone.” The singer-songwriter added insight into one of the release’s sweetest tracks, “Twined & Twisted,” explaining that the full melody actually came to her in a dream. “I heard this beautiful voice,” she said. “It was pretty like an angel’s voice.” As she shared the beautiful song with fans at The Vic there was little doubt that the inspiration behind it was indeed heaven sent.
Of course, much of the night was dedicated to June’s 2017 masterpiece “The Order of Time.” The hand-clapping, boot stomping, rock and roll hoedown “Shakedown” got bodies moving across the venue, while the soft and delicate love song “With You” was elevated in the live setting by the crescendoing accompaniment of June’s band supporting her light and airy vocal themes.
The transcendental powers of June’s music were spotlighted during an especially moving presentation of “If And.” The slow sweeping drums paired with the descending vocal phrases played like a mantra allowing audience members to get lost in the moment. A smoky red background framed June in shadows – standing center stage strumming her guitar – and created imagery that rivals that of an intricate painting.
Timeless doesn’t begin to describe June’s incomparable talents.
Head over to ValerieJune.com to find out where you can see her on tour to experience the musical magic for yourself.