John Moreland is an artist’s artist. Which means to fully appreciate Moreland’s music you must first appreciate songwriting on the most cellular of levels. Before Bohemian Rhapsody was layered with stacked tracks of instrumentation and vocals, it was a few chords and a vocal melody. Before Sgt. Peppers was a beautiful orchestrated wall of production, it was a single idea or thought. Many great songs that when stripped of the glitz and glamor of production and studio trickery, are as simple as campfire sing-alongs with some cowboy chords. And it is in this space, where John Moreland’s true songwriting brilliance hangs its sweaty, dirty hat.
At his recent appearance at The Open Highway Festival at Chesterfield Amphitheater in Chesterfield, Mo – Moreland, his guitar, and his songs captivated the audience with a stunning performance of songs old, and new alike. Moreland, with no backing band or instrumentation and his no frills approach to live performance gave the audience a glimpse into what many of his songs might’ve sounded like in their first true form. Armed with only his Fender Jag-stang guitar, reverb effects pedals, and a solid state amplifier, Moreland wowed the crowd with his minimalistic presentation. Allowing even a casual observer to understand that the magic is often in the fingers of the player and not in the gear behind them. Between songs and after the thunderous applause, an eerie silence covered the hundreds in attendance. This silence, though not requested by Moreland, moreso demanded merely by his presence and given as a sign of respect from the audience.
This is John Moreland in all of his glory; a bear of a man with an intimidating stare, up front and center living and singing with as much vulnerability as any man can muster. This is what we love about Moreland, and his songs. And this is why many, including the Arch City Music Podcast, put him amongst some of the great modern songwriters of his generation.
Early in Moreland’s set is ‘Lies I Chose to Believe’ in which John reveals that sometimes the truth is harder to choke down than that of what we want to believe. Moreland has an uncanny way with his lyrics of giving insight into what he feels and yet somehow also tapping into something inside his listeners as well. That is where the connection occurs and the seed of appreciation is planted. On this particular night at the Open Highway Music Festival maybe the lie we choose to believe is that music is better smoothed to a fine finish, when in actuality the truth is that we all just desire the realness inside of ourselves and others. When walking around in a world that resembles less honesty and truth lately, and more deception and mixed reality, a sense of genuineness is not only welcomed, but admired. Even if sometimes admired with silence.
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