“Ordinary people can do extraordinary things…”
The words echoed throughout the historic Fillmore venue in San Francisco as Judah and The Lion gear up to take the stage. Following their amazing openers, Tall Heights and the amazingly energetic, heavy-hitting Colony House, whose intimate performance included them closing their set with a track they wrote in a van from New York to San Francisco and claimed it’d only be fitting to let it ring out as we await Judah (the song, for your convenience, is “You Know It”).
Judah and The Lion are four weeks into their Going To Mars tour, which celebrates their latest single of the same name off their 2016 hit album, Folk Hop N’ Roll. The message tonight? That all of us are capable of extraordinary things, without bending or altering who you are to achieve those feats.
Judah and the Lion prove this by the very first seconds of them hitting the stage – the night began with their infamous T-Pain cover/dance number, “Booty Wurk” as lights fill the venue, making it easily mistakable for concert goers to question whether they may have stepped into an EDM event instead of an indie/rock concert. This originality from the band is what has set them apart from the get-go, making their message so much more than words. As the members of the band — Judah Akers (lead vocals, guitar), Brian MacDonald on the mandolin, Nate Zuercher on the banjo and touring members, Dylan Oglesby on guitar and backup vocals, Daniel Weatherby on synth/keys and Troy Bruner on drums — stand in a line-up on stage, showing us their best twerking dance routines.
There is no mistaking Judah’s energy, or the devotion to make tonight a party. Need an example of their devotion? Mandolin player, Brian MacDonald just had hip surgery but didn’t allow that to stop him from touring…even if his dance moves may have been compromised, he was still performing as immersed into the performance as the rest. As for Judah… he is dressed from head-to-toe in a white suit, which reflects the neon lights and disco-ball/chandelier ceilings, amplifying the party atmosphere. Every moment of their show has an obvious dedication to be for the fans. First is shown when Judah splits the venue into two teams: Team Beard (with Nate) and Team Five O’Clock Shadow for the fans to sing along to their track, “Reputation.” The winners? Even though Team Beard took the gold (thanks to an adorable 5-year old fan who sat on her father’s shoulders and cheered her heart out), the entire venue was blessed with another dance-off, this time the guys in Judah and the Lion showing a little skin as their shirts flipped over their faces and they continued to perform without missing a beat.
The night also included an amazing cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” which they performed with Colony House, the venue illuminated in every color imaginable. Tall Heights was brought back on stage as well, a beautiful duet during “Backs Against The Wall” featuring the live cello.
“This can get really cheesy if you let it… so don’t let it.” Judah teases as he turns back to the crowd for participation from the two teams to sing the chorus of “Green Eyes” the loudest.
We know the inevitable is about to come – the show winding down as Judah performs some of their biggest hits. Akers himself takes center stage, telling fans he wants to cast a little vision, sharing with the fans:
“We made a promise to never be the ‘cool band,’ to just be ourselves. We strive to promote hope and positivity. We want to connect with this passion we have as humans and with that, we can become a family. This is all s super special to us – I hope it comes off as genuine. We truly do treasure you, whether you know one song or the whole roster.” His voice echoes throughout the silent venue, continuing with the sentiment, “We deal with fears, sadness, anxiety… I don’t know your story but regardless, when you leave this beautiful Fillmore, you can do anything with your life. Anything you want. There is nothing that can hold you back from doing what you want to do with your life.” Akers ends his speech by saying he isn’t a great motivational speaker and explains that’s why the band wrote the next song… kicking off to the tour’s title track, “Going to Mars.”
The entire evening is filled with the band’s unique style of music, their mandolin versus banjo, versus heavy synth and riffs you’d catch in heavy rock. Their album, appropriately titled Folk Hop N’ Roll gives you an idea that Judah believes to be in a league of their own, and they truly are.
It was beyond easy to immerse yourself in tonight’s show, Judah giving the fans every opportunity they could to be apart of the experience. At one point, the band even began singing the football chant/song, Olé, Olé, Olé, and joked “Man… we tell ourselves that we’re professionals up here. We play that song for over four years and have never heard it clapped like that…” Akers is laughing nearly so heavily that he cannot continue on performing “Rich Kids,” but he soon recovers, the positivity and happiness of the evening becoming palpable.
“Let’s finish strong, San Francisco!” the band yells as they end the night with their chart-topping track, “Take It All Back,” which reached #1 on the Alternative Charts and 14 on Top 40. The night ends just as it began: one wild dance party.
Judah tells the crowd that San Francisco has become such a huge part of their story – and they selfishly wish to come back and have the fans come back, even if they only buy a ticket to make them happy. Their encore comes in the form of a collaboration with Tall Heights and what should have been Colony House, but the majority of the band left early. “Tweet angry things at them!” Judah yells, before laughing and promising he was just kidding… or was he?
The musicians perform Bill Withers’ famous, “Lean On Me” in a gorgeous rendition of their own. As the lights switch off, and a more serious note takes over the mood, Judah gives us three rules for the fans:
Sounds like pretty great rules to live by, right?
Check out the setlist and photos from Judah’s show, including Tall Heights and Colony House below!
Kickin’ da Leaves
Mr. Brightside (The Killers cover)
Back’s Against the Wall
Suit and Jacket
Going to Mars
Take it All Back
Lean on Me (Bill Withers’ cover)
Didn’t catch Judah’s show in SF? There’s still time to see them! Check out below for dates and further information.