On Tuesday, Fistful of Mercy began their first official tour at the Showbox at the Market. This somewhat of a supergroup — comprised of Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur, and Dhani Harrison — chose Seattle specifically as their launching point because of how comfortable they felt when they first announced their project and performed live on KEXP and at Easy Street Records in West Seattle this summer. But rather than packing the Showbox with a standing room only crowd, which they easily could have got based on Harper’s fans alone, they decided to turn the space into an elegant dining room with the audience seated at candlelit tables, making for a unique and intimate experience.
It was easy to see why the band chose Alain Johannes to open the show. The musician and producer, who has worked with Chris Cornell, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Mark Lanegan and The Desert Sessions, Jason Faulkner and many others, took the stage with just a rectangular, homemade-looking guitar and proceeded to mesmerize the audience with his deft, classical/flamenco hybrid fingering. It didn’t take long to get past the initial disconnect between this large, bald figure and the plaintive songs he sang, but as the set drew on, Johannes’ reedy voice, which sounded uncannily like Elvis Costello at times, and the overall sameness of the songs themselves, could get a little fatiguing. Still, Johannes is a guitarist of the first rate and a wonder to watch and hear.
Without much delay, the Fistful of Mercy came out and took to the three stools front and center of the stage. Joining them, as before, was Jessy Greene, the stunning fiddler who has toured with the likes of Foo Fighters and The Old 97’s. If the stools and the ol’ timey hats worn by Ben and Joe weren’t a strong enough hint, set opener, “I Don’t Want To Waste Your Time,” set the tone (and mission) for the night: it would be a kicked back night of beautiful harmonizing in a relaxed environment — as if they were playing in your living room… your really big living room.
Since their recent debut, As I Call You Down, contains only nine songs, all really good and all performed that night, the guys brought songs of their own — Ben with “Please Me (Like You Want To)”, Joseph with sing-along “In the Sun”, and Dhani with “Another John Doe” from his band Thenewno2. And the Dylan cover of “Buckets of Rain” early in the set would be the first of four covers, including PJ Harvey’s “To Bring You My Love” and Prince’s “Scandalous” (a song that they were “told not to play” and “probably shouldn’t play”). One high point of the night for sure was the encore’s “Pale Blue Eyes” with Alain Johannes backing on guitar. Another show stopper had to be the band’s title song, “Fistful of Mercy,” featuring Jessy possessed.
At times, the between-song banter was a bit stiff and the guys are still trying to find their ease on stage, but throughout their camaraderie and musicianship made for a terrific tour starter. If Fistful of Mercy is heading to a town near you, this isn’t a show you want to miss!
I Don’t Want To Waste Your Time
In Vain or True
As I Call You Down
Buckets of Rain (Bob Dylan cover)
Fistful of Mercy
Please Me (Like You Want To) (Ben Harper cover)
In the Sun (Joseph Arthur cover)
Another John Doe (Thenewno2 cover)
Things Go ‘Round
To Bring You My Love (PJ Harvey cover)
Pale Blue Eyes (The Velvet Underground cover)
Scandalous (Prince cover)
With Whom You Belong