Live Review: Hiss Golden Messenger – White Eagle Hall, Jersey City

Mike Taylor’s indie-folk, country-rock Americana band, Hiss Golden Messenger, has truly been an exciting act to follow over the last few years. The latest lineup featuring Chris Boerner on lead guitars, Alex Bingham on bass, Nick Falk on drums and Sam Fribush on keys is quite electrifying and as tight and in the pocket a rock and roll band can be.

A couple of weeks ago the band passed through White Eagle Hall in Jersey City and absolutely set fire to the room. The band opened with a blazing rendition of ‘Cats Eye Blue’ from 2019’s Terms Of Surrender. This is quite the perfect example of how a song that may not grab you initially, needs to take its own journey to grow on you. This live version was one of the best Hiss openers I’ve heard in a while. To keep the momentum going with an upbeat groove, the band delivered a stellar ‘I’ve Got a Name for the Newborn Child’, an older cut from the 2013 release Haw.

Next the band performed a fun cover of ‘Mama Tried’, an old blues song made famous by the great jam band The Grateful Dead. ‘My Wing’ followed, an acoustic chord progression driven, foot stompin’ tune from Terms Of Surrender that still today remains one of the strongest songs in the set. Without missing a beat the raging energy continued with ‘Biloxi’, the powerful opening track from 2016s Heart Like a Levee. Just as the lyrics say “Everybody in the whole damn place is gonna have a good time” the audience was dancing and grooving along to every beat of the song. 

To mix up the energy with more of an electric vibe, the band performed a soulful version of ‘Passing Clouds’, a single recorded at Spacebomb Studios. This song is exciting to hear in a live concert setlist since it was released on its own as one entity, not part of a full album of material that the band would normally tour in support of. Passing clouds stands out as memorable with unique song structure. The short lived verses make the vocal climax in the chorus that much more exciting. 

One exciting highlight that surprised fans was that the band mixed in a few new songs that they’re working on for the new record. Based on the previews of these songs, in their brave and bold early stages, the next record is going to be another jam-filled, singalong party. 

After we got the gift of a couple new tunes, the band turned in a raging version of ‘Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer’. This is one of the most edgy tracks in the Hiss catalog and a sure standout from 2016’s Heart Like A Levee. Towards the end of the show Mike invited the opening act Aoife O’ Donovan to sing harmonies on the ominous ‘Down at the Uptown’.

The band walked off stage and returned for an encore with Aoife O’ Donovan and her band, to perform their Americana rock version of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Bertha’. Mike’s tuning on this one perfectly displays the true power of a cover song and the slight tweaks an artist can make to conjure up their own expression of an old classic.

The final number of the night was a rocking ‘Lucia’ from 2014’s Lateness of Dancers. With a familiar rhythm and chord progression this song perfectly segued into the Grateful Dead’s ‘Franklin’s Tower’.

As the band wrapped up their tour recently, we’re definitely keeping our eyes and ears peeled for announcements about new Hiss music which is hopefully coming sooner than we all think.