Photography by Nora Onanian
By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator
Artist: Tall Heights
Venue: The Sinclair
When: Saturday, March 19th
After nearly a month of performances in cities across the U.S., Tall Heights wrapped up their tour on a high note with a hometown show at the Sinclair in Cambridge Saturday night.
For the indie-folk duo Paul Wright and Tim Harrington, it was “really sweet” to finish in the place where it all started. “Don’t tell the other cities, but that was totally worth it,” said Harrington between one of the first few songs.
Tall Heights’ mapped-out tour for their 2021 album Juniors had undergone many changes in response to evolving COVID situations. Originally, Cambridge hadn’t even been intended as the final stop. Thus, after all of the postponements and unpredictabilities of the year, a deep appreciation from both the band and concertgoers shone through.
A mixed crowd of young and older adults gathered to see the duo, several 20-somethings seeing the show alongside their parents, some meeting friends, and others going solo to appreciate the beauty of live music and Tall Heights’ gentle, yet compelling folk sound.
OPENER ANDREA VON KAMPEN SHOWS OFF STUNNING VOCALS AND A SENSE OF HUMOR
At 8:30 p.m. as guests still filtered into the Sinclair, Nebraska-based singer-songwriter Andrea Von Kampen quietly took the stage. Following just a few moments setting up her stool and setlist, von Kampen picked up her acoustic guitar and started her first song. Backed by a blanket of warm strums and bright-sounding finger-plucked melodies, von Kampen’s vocals were airy and stunning. She started with “Take Back Thy Gift” and the titular track “That Spell,” both off of her 2021 album.
Later, she pulled two songs from her 2019 album Old Country and two from her 2017 EP Desdemona. She put her own haunting twist on covers of Mavis Staples’ “Hard Times Come Again No More” and Otis Reddings’ “(Sitting On the) Dock of the Bay.” And to wrap up her set, von Kampen performed an unreleased song that she said was about a Nebraskan family of farmers. “I don’t think of glory, when I could make my father proud” she sang, capturing the pressure to continue on the family farm. This final song was one of many examples of von Kampen’s writing having drawn from life in the Midwest, nature, and complex relationship dynamics.
In between songs, von Kampen got the crowd laughing hard with small, comical anecdotes told with a dry delivery. She recounted an earlier flight to Boston with a not-so-easy seatmate that she told the crowd “represented you all well.” She talked about agreeing to act in a feature-length film for the chance to spend a month in Italy. And she introduced one of her final songs as her first track that made it into a TV show, slowly revealing that not only was the show Teen Mom OG, only a two-second strumming pattern made the cut.
After her heartfelt set of nine songs and commanding side-humor, Andrea von Kampen exited the stage just about as mellow and humble as her start, with a soft-spoken “Thank you, everyone. Have a great night.”
TALL HEIGHTS TAKE THE STAGE
After taking the stage to the crowd's cheers, Tall Heights kicked off the night with “Horse to Water.” While an older song, having come off of their album Neptune from 2016, “Horse to Water” was a good opening choice for the way it highlights both how the duo’s two halves sound distinctively and how they can effortlessly blend. On stage, Paul Wright and his cello stood to the left, while Tim Harrington stood on the opposite side, acoustic guitar in hand.
The first song to be played off of Tall Heights’ most recent album Juniors was “Keeps Me Light.” They introduced the song as one about friendship. “There’s a lot of friendship in this room for y’all and for us too,” Harrington said, speaking to the community of fans that comes along with playing a local show. Later on, Harrington dedicated “Flyin’ Overhead” to “a personal hero” who was in the audience — his mom. The sweet song about letting go of regrets was a beautiful tribute to growth and looking ahead.
A TWO-SONG PERFORMANCE “BACKYARD STYLE”
After a run of five songs that had the crowd clapping and swaying along, Tall Heights started to talk about the Backyard Tour they put on. When unable to perform at indoor venues due to the pandemic, the two had taken to social media to see if fans would host outdoor shows on their properties. “We went around just the two of us and a couple of stools,” Harrington said, detailing the magical “artistic factory reset” of a feeling that performing in such an intimate setting created.
With that, they announced the next two songs would be played “in the spirit of the backyard.” Hopping off stage to grab a stool, the duo sat down and poured their hearts into the beautifully delicate next two songs — “House On Fire” (Pretty Colors For Your Actions, 2018) and “The Mountain” (Juniors, 2021).
A CLEAR APPRECIATION FOR EVERYONE THAT HELPED THE SHOW GO ON
As Tall Heights traversed songs all the way from their 2013 Man of Stone to last year’s full-length album, they displayed immense gratitude. It was visible in every audience interaction, every passionate note sung or plucked, and every comment that thanked members of their crew, from drummer Paul Dumas to their sound engineer.
The ways that the duo incorporated the audience into the performance was unlike many other concerts. They encouraged singing along, dancing and clapping, yes. But at one point, they uniquely instructed members of the crowd to call the person standing next to them, put them both on speaker, and hold their phones together. The (intentional) result was a sea of electronic chirping, used to create an ethereal background for their 2016 track “Take My Mind.”
A special thank you went out to their touring manager Devin Mauch, who joined Wright and Harrington on stage for the closing track to their main set, the joyful, catchy “Hear It Again.”
Returning for an encore, Tall Heights put their all into a performance of the more upbeat “River Wider.” And to cap off the night, they returned onto their stools to give a chilling, intimate-feeling performance of “Learn Again.” The song sent off concertgoers gently into the night, hearts full from getting to experience live music in its purest and most passionate form.