Sporting a UW jersey, Noah Kahan beamed through shaggy hair and searing lights as fans crowded the Majestic Theatre stage. The up-and-coming indie artist brought his “Busyhead” tour to Madison for Thursday and Saturday night shows, delivering stunning and inclusive performances from both Kahan and his opener, JP Saxe.
The Majestic Theatre donned its classic string lights, ornate finish and friendly atmosphere. The stage was cluttered with various instruments, a set of large triangles behind them to represent mountains. Predominantly in their 20s, the crowd eagerly waited for the show to begin. Around 8 p.m., Saxe crossed the stage in a sea of purple light. He grabbed a guitar and pulled it tight to his giraffe-headed shirt, and with a few chords, the audience swooned.
“I didn’t anticipate being so warmly welcomed in a place I’ve never been before,” Saxe said.
With a combination of strings and piano, the artist serenaded the audience with tunes like “Anybody Else” and “If The World Was Ending.” There were also a few songs where he included the audience as an instrument in his performance. He paired the sexy sound of “Blurry” with a fan-induced echo, asking the crowd to repeat a set of lyrics as he riffed. He confessed that the creation made an audience member faint at their last show. Saxe also freestyled some jazz to show off the variety in his musical talent.
Overall, Saxe was a kind, fan-favorite. His indie style dripped with jazz undertones, and his warm personality was the perfect appetizer to the main course.
Kahan took to the stage with a backup band of a drummer, a bassist and a pianist. A mobile rack filled with different guitars sat to his left, a stool to his left propped a hydro flask with painted blue mountains. He opened with one of his first tracks, “Hold It Down,” with rugged vocals that only a live audience could truly appreciate. He continued with more road trip-style music, like “Mess” and “Youngblood.” During breaks, he conversed with the audience, talking about his own experiences and how some of his songs came to fruition.
For example, while his sound induces wanderlust, some songs dig a little deeper into his personal life. “Carlo’s Song” is dedicated to a close friend of Kahan who died a few years ago, and “Sink” reminds us of relationships that bring us out of rough times. One of his more famous songs, “Hurt Somebody,” explores the tragic, yet inevitable downside of breakups.
His title piece, “Busyhead,” defines his tour as a rare coming-of-age narrative. A cluster of thoughts created a successful career, and in that, inspired a more crowded mind. Kahan’s tour promised an experience that organizes the beautiful chaos of life into upbeat and inspirational music.
He and Saxe plan to continue across North America and Europe, bringing their busy heads and passionate hearts to all who welcome them.