Over the Rhine charms with a warm and intimate show
Twenty years after their first appearance at Calvin, Over the Rhine performed the first major concert of the year Saturday night.
Playing for a full house in the Covenant Fine Arts Center, Over the Rhine performed a nearly two-hour set full of lively guitar play, thoughtful lyrics and powerful vocals from lead singer Karin Bergquist and her husband Linford Detweiler.
I’ll admit that I knew very little about the band that likens themselves to “Calvin’s house band” prior to their latest concert. But from the opening “Laugh of Recognition” to their four-song encore, I found myself swept up by the charm and warmth of the married pair from Ohio and their slice of Americana.
The welcoming warmth of Over the Rhine’s music largely stems from the beautiful themes and lyricism of their songs. The band’s set was mostly centered around their new double album “Meet Me at the Edge of the World.”
The songs from “World” do a wonderful job of inviting the audience into the lives of Bergquist and Detweiler with lyrics that evoke their roots, their marriage and “Nowhere Farm,” their home in rural Southern Ohio.
Songs like “All Over Ohio,” which found the husband and wife duo singing about their connection to one another, and “Favorite Time of Light” beautifully capture an honest portrait of life that is refreshing to hear.
As great and lyrically-rich as Over the Rhine’s music is, the performance of each song was amplified by Bergquist’s amazing voice. Big and layered with experience and heart, Bergquist’s vocals accentuated the honest and intimate nature of the lyrics wonderfully on songs like “I’d Want You” and “Trouble.”
Bergquist and Detweiler, additionally, had excellent harmonization on songs like the titular “Meet Me at the Edge of the World,” a song that Detweiler says stemmed from a time when “Karin was walking her dog.”
The charm of Bergquist and Detweiler was also evident from their warm on-stage banter. On several occasions throughout the night, Bergquist would ask her husband if he had something to say about a song, which he often did.
Bergquist also referred to her husband’s appearance as “the likable villain look.” The playful and sincere back-and-forth banter between husband and wife added to the band’s innate likability and the overall warmth of the concert.
The other members of Over the Rhine, mostly comprised of guitarists and a drummer, also gave it their all, giving the songs a folk rock sound that is both calming and rousing. Detweiler additionally showcased his versatility by splitting time between playing the guitar and the keyboard.
The Milk Carton Kids, an indie folk duo from California that also opened for Over the Rhine at Calvin in 2011, got the show going with their great harmonies and thoughtful lyrics, proving to be a perfect lead-in.
The duo additionally displayed their sharp wit and deadpan delivery through humor about grammar and onesies and quips like “there’s no one way to raise a child — it’s like eating a Reese’s.”
With both bands at the top of their game and their charm on full display, I couldn’t help but smile and clap along with the audience throughout the night.
Over two decades into their career, Over the Rhine continues to put on memorable shows. If they are “Calvin’s house band,” then they are certainly a good one and one worth listening to.