“Where’s he from again?” I heard amongst the audience.
“Minnesota!” another cheerfully replied.
This was the first I’d heard mention of my humble home since I arrived in London over a month ago. In the basement of the Borderline on Saturday night, Mason Jennings made a name for our great state across the globe.
I first discovered Jennings just after the release of his Minnesota album while attending college out of state. From that point onward, Jennings is whom I turn to when homesickness hits. Needless to say, this month’s rare UK tour during my summer abroad was serendipity at its finest.
British singer-songwriter Natasha North performed a pure and peaceful opener. Her folksy, straightforward style reflected that of Laura Marling, while her lyrics were sweet and rather predictable. North’s delicate voice cooed hymns of love lost and lessons learned, leaving the audience entranced.
Jennings then emerged, bearded and flannel-clad. Already, I was reminded of home. He took to the stage alone, playing a full two-hour set with no more than a guitar and keyboard by his side. His signature timbre remained as gentle as ever, landing softly and graciously upon every note.
This was Jennings’s first UK tour in six years, attracting an audience hungry for material both old and new. Jennings answered with a smorgasbord, pulling songs from no fewer than nine of his albums. Manifestly satisfied, the audience broke out in a hoedown during “Memphis, Tennessee”; lovingly embraced during “Living in the Moment”; and guffawed through every verse of “New Man.” As Jennings performed “Crown,” it was as if the entire room took a collective gulp of air and roared as he soulfully blew into his harmonica.
In that cozy English crowd of 150 people, Jennings brought the world down to scale. Jokingly addressing the British-American language barrier, he described a UK fan who was utterly convinced that his hit song “Clutch” was about a little purse.
Jennings ultimately wrapped up the night in an energetic encore of crowd-requested classics including “Ulysses,” “Ballad For My One True Love,” “California,” and “Fighter Girl.” As the audience joyously belted the words to every refrain, my heart swelled with pride for our common roots. However, the message of the evening resulted in me feeling just as much connected to London as the Twin Cities. For whether it’s in the Land of 10,000 Lakes or across the pond, Jennings taught us to “be here now; no other place to be.”
The Light, Pt. 2 (Use Your Voice, 2004)
Darkness Between the Fireflies (Mason Jennings, 1998)
Your New Man (In the Ever, 2008)
Clutch (Minnesota, 2011)
Nothing (Mason Jennings)
Adrian (Century Spring, 2002)
Which Way Your Heart Will Go (Boneclouds, 2006)
Be Here Now (Boneclouds)
Rainboots (Always Been, 2013)
Memphis, Tennessee (In the Ever)
Drinking As Religion (Use Your Voice)
Bitter Heart (Minnesota)
Wilderness (Always Been)
The Field (Blood of Man, 2009)
Tourist (Blood of Man)
Butterfly (Mason Jennings)
Living in the Moment (Century Spring)
Keepin’ it Real (Use Your Voice)
Crown (Use Your Voice)
Jackson Square (Boneclouds)
Sorry Signs on Cash Machines (Century Spring)
Ulysses (Use Your Voice)
Ballad for My One True Love (Birds Flying Away, 2000)
California (Mason Jennings)
Fighter Girl (In the Ever)