Of the many lessons this past year has taught us, not to take things for granted ranks up there as one of the most impactful ones. That was definitely not lost on me on this Saturday night in early April as I made my way to Tipitina’s for the first of Anders Osborne’s two-show engagement. After a concert-less year, what could be better than jumping back in with one of my favorites doing my favorite album of his, 2007’s Coming Down, in its entirety. With COVID-19 cases declining and the city of New Orleans moving to Phase 3 with relaxed restrictions, live music was back at Tipitina’s for the third weekend in this new format: intimate, seated shows that make the late-night Jazz Fest hang feel more like a jazz club. Upon being seated, we were reminded by the staff to follow the safety procedures to remain in our seats and please wear our masks.
It wasn’t long after we were seated that Osborne took the stage. In his baja sweatshirt and sandals, he exuberated a certain Zen-like quality, which was further confirmed when he told the crowd his meditative thoughts. “Ya know before COVID, I was really thinking about walking away from music, but this past year has really made me love music again,” he said before strumming the opening chords of “Coming Down,” on his acoustic guitar. With its lyrics about bouncing back, the crowd was undeniably moved. “Keep your arms wide open, ‘cause I’m coming down,” Osborne sang, which was met with cheers. After a whirlwind year, this live music-starved crowd was ready to welcome music back and Coming Down, an album created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was the perfect soundtrack as the city bounces back. Like the track list of Coming Down, Osborne made his way through a powerful rendition of “Spotlight,” complete with a spacey feedback cadence. Before jumping into his summertime anthem, “Summertime in New Orleans” Osborne did some storytelling regarding the writing of the song, that harkened back to his days in the French Quarter.
Despite the predictable format of playing an album front to back, Osborne wasn’t afraid to take the crowd on a sonic journey, which included local saxophone virtuoso Brad Walker midway through the set. Walker, a veteran of Sturgill Simpson’s band, engaged deeply and listened empathetically to Osborne’s playing starting with “Back on Dumaine.” While I definitely understood the venue’s rules for not dancing, I must say it was extremely difficult not to on this energetic rendition of the song, especially when Walker took his first solo of the night. Following the rambunctious applause, Osborne jumped into a soft and soulful “Oh, Katrina”. Afterwards, Osborne lamented that New Orleans legend Snooks Eaglin never got the chance to sing the tune. The duo of Osborne and Walker next made their way through the rest of the album including an extremely tender version of “Lucky One.” The sonic exploration continued past the close of the album, however, as Osborne shared “Last Day in the Keys” off his new album Orpheus and Mermaids, which features a lyrical reference to the late Neal Casal.
While Osborne made known during the night that it was weird performing in front of an audience again, he did it with such grace and made the audience remember the bliss that comes with live music. Closing the night with “Louisiana Gold,” was the perfect cherry on top, as the precious music of New Orleans once again flowed back in one of its pristine churches, Tipitina’s.