If you think that you know Judah & the Lion before seeing them perform for the first time, you’ve not got the whole picture. A bold mashup of folk, pop, and hip-hop, Judah & the Lion is a small band with huge sound (and even bigger stage visuals!) Precursor to the craziness at Express Live! was Flora Cash, well known amongst Columbus’ local alternative station for the hit “You’re Somebody Else”. A content crowd closed out their set, and anxiously awaited for Judah as a giant curtain went up.
As we all waited for our feel-good ‘pep talk’, the familiar beat of “Pep Talk” began with strobed lights flashing the shadow puppets of the Nashville trio. As the curtain falls, frontman Judah Akers launches into “Quarter-Life Crisis”. Both opening tracks to their most recent album based on love, loss, struggle, and hope. Looking amongst the crowd, it is clear that the music is soothing for all walks of life. It is a joy to see kids dancing to Nate Zuercher on the banjo, and the rest of us jump, sway and jam to Brian MacDonald and Judah himself.
Judah & the Lion is such an extraordinary band based on how they musically portray human emotion and struggle. One minute Judah is on the keyboard pouring his heart out to “Queen Songs / human.” which then bursts into an upbeat, hopeful jam session with a six piece band whom he refers to as his family. It’s one thing to go on a lyrical journey of healing through music, but it’s a whole new addition to visually see it onstage.
Through struggle comes relief. “Don’t Mess With My Mama” was to follow, with fog machine explosions, strobes, and of course a pounding bass drum. Many times throughout the show, Judah encouraged the audience to dance and, “get weird together.” Closing out a nearly-two hour set were more hits from “Pep Talks”, with a wild dance routine. The men of Judah & the Lion came out in flyaway pants to “Why Did You Run?” and while following a choreographed routine, you can imagine what happened there. “Take It All Back” was the clear pick to complete the night.
Judah & the Lion will be touring the rest of the U.S. through November, and hits the rest of the world closely thereafter. Check them out for a wild show, story, and allover experience.