damien jurado [2009]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
5 May 2009

It feels base and trivial to mention such a thing with an artist I respect so much, but Damien Jurado has lost some serious weight. I’m talking 50+ pounds. For a second or two, I literally did not recognize him on stage tonight.

I suppose I should blame this shock on the fact that I haven’t seen him live in a year or two. Or perhaps I should instead blame People Magazine for not keeping me informed (which reminds me that I’m really looking forward to the 2010 Indie Artist Edition.)

But really, Jurado’s transformation is truly remarkable. You get to know artists in certain ways and associate their physical appearance with the music and sound that they produce. The forceful but quiet intensity of Jurado’s music seemed intrinsically tied to his large presence (and usually closely-shorn hair).

Thankfully, dropping 50 pounds and growing a disarming crop of dark hair on his head did nothing to hinder Jurado from delivering a powerful and physical performance. His entire body seems to be working, in a constant state of flux, tension rising and receding with every phrase.

Jurado’s creations are more stories than songs – often of people undergoing traumatic events: at times, wronging others physically and emotionally. Light poppy fare, it is not.

Though I had never thought of it before this night, Jurado’s music (though much more stripped-down) shares qualities with that of Bruce Springsteen: the raw, emotional delivery, the unapologetic connection with the characters he creates, whether they be kind or evil.

Jurado played alone on this night, but his noble and sordid tales, delivered with customary fervor, easily filled the room and captured us all.