Attend a Pedro the Lion concert and lead singer David Bazaan will likely, between beers, open up the floor to a Q&A session. On a wispy winter day in New Orleans some years ago, a fan asked Bazaan why his longtime friend and sometime collaborator Damien Jurado didn’t tour more. Dave told the crowd Damien was a reclusive type, but that he was doing his best to get him to take to the road.
Thankfully, Bazaan must be persuasive. Jurado now routinely ventures out of the Pacific Northwest. He must like touring — and the intimacy it provides with his fans: He’s offered up a series of limited-copy vinyl releases that can only be found at his live shows.
It takes some real brass ones to start a show with a song with the first line, “Here comes a big letdown.” But Jurado pulled it off on March 3 at the Troubadour, and followed it up with a set that defied that dour prediction. To call it a religious experience would approach redundancy. Jurado, who like Bazaan often tinges his songs with Christian themes, opened for Low, a band based around a married Mormon couple.
Jurado was joined onstage by long-time collaborator Eric Fisher and relative newcomer to the Jurado fold Jenna Conrad. Fisher mainly brushed lightly on the drums, sometimes getting out from behind the kit to play a quiet electric guitar, keyboards, even harmonium at one point. Conrad played cello, an instrument I’ve never seen Jurado perform live with. It was a beautiful addition to the performance, and so were the times she put her bow down to focus on harmonizing amazingly with Jurado.
The trio played mostly new material, including songs off Jurado’s 2005 album, On My Way to Absence. One standout exception was “Abilene,” made somehow even more baroque and haunting in this setting. For the final song, Jurado himself went behind the kit to crescendo up some cymbal rolls while belting out guttural howls. Jurado usually gets the most praise for the storytelling in his songwriting, but as this wordless finale showed off, Jurado’s voice can hold its own with anyone in indie rock.
Now, if only Bazaan had Jeff Mangum on speed dial.