The Jayhawks at Taste of Chicago

This year’s Taste of Chicago was scaled down from previous years. No fireworks. And fewer famous bands playing on the concert stage. That was supposed to be the idea, anyway. As it turned out, this year’s festival actually included more musical acts that interested me than usual. Alas, I missed seeing Loretta Lynn on Friday night, but I did catch the Jayhawks Saturday afternoon (July 2) at the Petrillo Bandshell. Now, here’s a show that I thought would draw a decent-size crowd, since the Jayhawks seem to have a pretty good following, thanks in part to WXRT, which was sponsoring the free concert. But for whatever reason, the park had plenty of empty seats.

Still, it was a solid performance, a highly enjoyable set of the Jayhawks’ best songs from their early records, Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass — the albums the band made back when it had both of its key singer-songwriters, Mark Olson and Gary Louris. Olson left the group in the mid-1990s, and then Louris and the other Jayhawks carried on. Olson has rejoined the Jayhawks now, and it was a joy to hear Olson and Louris swapping vocal lines in those classic songs they collaborated on in the early ’90s, which have really stood the test of time. The songs were anchored by Louris’ melodic guitar riffs and solos, which were instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent time listening to those albums.

The Jayhawks also treated us to a couple of songs from their forthcoming album — the first one featuring both Olson and Louris in 16 years. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing.