The storied songwriter returned to the city that has shown him plenty of brotherly love.
Like many native-New Jersey musicians, Pete Yorn has built up a solid fanbase in Philadelphia. And while he hasn’t achieved the international star status of, say, Bruce Springsteen and played to sold out arenas, he’s still warmly received each time he visits the city, the last of which was July’s XPoNential Music Festival, across the river in Camden.
Last week’s show at the Electric Factory was no exception, as fans crowded in for an intimate, yet energetic performance from the long-haired, now bearded singer/songwriter. Unlike most Electric Factory concerts, this one felt even more intimate, with the balcony closed off, bleachers set up along the back of the room and a few pub tables scattered around the room, perhaps a sign of the economic recession.
After a riveting set from buzz-worthy Brooklyn rockers Alberta Cross, Yorn took the stage, diving straight into the pulsing “Can’t Hear Anyone,” a rare, non-album gem.
His six-piece backing band, which included Yorn’s longtime friend and keyboardist Joe Kennedy, rounded out the crooner’s sound, showcasing some raw talent for musicianship. From mandolin plucking to feverish box drumming to theatrical tambourine playing, the band gave Yorn a platform from which to shine.
Yorn’s steadily growing catalog of songs now includes Break Up, a duets album with actress and friend Scarlett Johansson, released Sept. 15. Though Johansson did not make an appearance at the Electric Factory Thursday night, much to the dismay of concert-goers, Yorn did perform three tracks from the collaboration, all songs which he wrote. While the light, melodic progressions of songs like “Search Your Heart” and “Blackie’s Dead” could have used Johansson’s raspy female vocals, Yorn and his band gave them new life on stage.
Yorn performed songs from his most recent, fourth studio album, aptly titled Back and Fourth, including “Social Development Dance,” “Shotgun” and the feverish “Last Summer.” He also made sure to balance out the performance with eight songs from his highly regarded first album musicforthemorningafter. Fans delighted in familiar songs like “Strange Condition,” “Life on a Chain” and the heart wrenching piano ballad “Lose You.”
The 20-song set also included his upbeat and original cover of New Order’s 1986 smash “Bizarre Love Triangle,” which has been a staple of his live shows on recent tours.
Yorn seems to just know how to warm the hearts of his Philly faithful and the Electric Factory seems to be the perfect venue for him to display his prowess as a performer. His encore included a short teaser of Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” before transitioning into recent single “Don’t Wanna Cry.”
The encore also included fan favorites “Crystal Village” and the blistering “For Nancy (‘Cause It Already Is),” which closed out the night on a high note.
Pete Yorn may not have the sheer power of the E Street Band behind him, causing 50,000 people to jump up and down yelling the words to a hit song, but he does have the natural ability to put together a more than cohesive set full of well-written music to light up a room for two hours. It’s plenty of power to run the Electric Factory.
Kevin Brosky can be reached at email@example.com.