On their first visit to Madison Thursday night, Brits Mojave 3 got a chilly reception. Not from the audience -- they couldn't have been more appreciative or more attentive -- but from the weather. "It's cold here, we weren't expecting that," lead singer Neil Halstead protested. Even though it was an unusually cold, blustery night outside of the High Noon Saloon, it was warm and cozy inside for the second night of their US tour supporting their recent release Puzzles Like You with Tim O'Reagan in support.
After making their name in dreamy slowcore on their first four releases, Puzzles is a light-hearted, poppy effort. The disc's opening track "Truck Driving Man" came early while "Breaking the Ice" and the delightful title track closed out an entertaining set representative of their catalog, even though they were missing a key element of their recorded work.
Original member bassist/vocalist Rachel Goswell is suffering from hearing loss and debilitating ear infections leaving her unable to tour. She was missed on tracks from earlier records, like the Dylan-esque "Some Kind of Angel" and the gorgeous "Who Do You Love" from their second release Out of Time, where her vocals were more prominent. Even so, the charismatic and handsome Halstead easily carried the show himself.
Opener Tim O'Reagan is practically an honorary resident having played here frequently as the drummer of the Minneapolis-based Jayhawks, and more recently on tour for his self-titled solo record. And he was happy to be back, asking: "Is Madison still rated one of the top ten most adorable cities?" For someone who previously spent his time behind a drum kit, he seemed very comfortable in the spotlight. He was quick-witted and charming throughout the night. While much of the material was his, he pointed out that "the rockers are all covers, because I don't know how to write a rock song." With his stellar backing band -- notably featuring Jim Boquist (ex-Son Volt) -- he made a strong case for his solo career.
On Thursday night, for awhile, everyone could forget how cold it was outside.