Shooting for DC Music Download, I've become friends with writer and fellow show-goer Greg Ayers. His show reviews are vastly better than mine, so I'll give him the reigns on those shows we go to together.
Review by Greg Ayers as seen on DC Music Download -
A masterful, entertaining stage presence in the face of audience indifference and sound problems?
How about a killer band swinging back and forth between grungy barnburners and beautiful country ballads?
A bandleader jumping into the audience to shut it up and build intimacy with it?
Sounds like a Justin Jones show.
That’s exactly what went down Friday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel. After a competent opening set by Long Arms, a southern-fried rock outfit from Richmond, Jones treated fans to a two-hour marathon show packed with surprises.
The first was a fine instance of Jones’ ability to handle adversity and turn it into a rock ‘n’ roll moment. The Hotel experienced some sound problems early in the set, and when Jones’ guitar cut out halfway through “Let’s Stay Together,” he cut the rest of his band off and orchestrated the crowd in an acapella sing-along.
Jones’ set drew heavily from recent releases like 2012’s excellent Fading Light and 2010’s short, sweet Little FoxEP. He and his band expertly alternated from scorchers like “Miracles” and “My Father’s Gun” into delicate ballads like “Christmas Night.” The addition of keyboard and fiddle to the live set has filled out Jones’ sound and given him a range of moods to experiment with onstage.
Highlights included the transition from “My Father’s Gun,” which Jones ended by copping Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage,” into a solo acoustic set that left Jones vulnerable yet still mesmerizing. Here he gave listeners a handful of early deep cuts from among his earlier material.
Jones began this part of the show with “I’m So Tired,” the closing song from 2006’s Love Verses Heroin, and retreated to the back of the stage to sing to himself when it became clear the audience couldn’t be bothered to listen. He came back to us, though, and jumped into the crowd along with his fiddle player and percussionist, to perform a rowdy rendition of “Key” that involved fans forming a tight circle around Jones and contributing handclaps.
There was no encore, but Jones didn’t need to give one. He’d left everything out on the stage and then some, after working through adversity and indifference to deliver a career-spanning set making the case for his talent as both a songwriter and performer.