It’s a struggle for any artist who found success early in their career and have not found that same level since, and for Pete Yorn, it was evident at the Howard Theatre on Saturday night. Touring to promote his latest album, ArrangingTime, Yorn was accompanied by his full band, and the acoustics at the Howard Theatre were brilliant in the not-so-crowded pit.
Half of the people in the Howard Theatre most likely were there for Yorn’s first album, Musicforthemorningafter, which earned Yorn a place in the Rolling Stone’s Ten Artists to Watch in 2001, as well as a 4-star rating.
The challenge for Yorn was how to deliver what the people want, and what he as an artist wants. You could see him grapple with this as he switched back and forth between songs from his new album, ArrangingTime, and his old hits. Beginning and ending with hits like “Black”, “Closet”, and “Strange Condition” Yorn intermixed the mid-tempo “Halifax”, “She Was Weird”, and “Lost Weekend” from the March 11th release ArrangingTime.
Unfortunately, the old hits outshone the new. Just by watching the audience, you could see the excitement of the crowd in the power pop-rock he first became famous with – famous used as a loose word. His new album lacked the punch, and while Yorn’s old albums are also filled with the dreamy pop- rock with stories of unrequited love, they were salvaged with crowd pleasers perfect for a rock concert.
ArrangingTime attempted to rewind the clock on a career which never reached the heights of his first album again, but it didn’t quite deliver in concert.
My first time seeing Yorn in 2014 was at the historic Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., a solo- acoustic show where he took recommendations from the audience the entire night. The 90 minutes he gave us then will stay in my mind longer than the 75-minute show at the Howard Theatre on Saturday night. The songs he played sounded great, but there was room for more. Perhaps the up-and-coming area around Howard Theatre, especially the Brew Pub right next door, called Yorn offstage early that night. By 9:50, everyone was headed to the exits.
Like the one song request Yorn fielded, “Paradise Cove”, “I got what I wanted and it’s never enough.” Yorn had a great stage presence and was able to rock out on his early songs like “Murray” and “Life on a Chain”. Yet, Yorn could have played more songs, especially from his self-titled album Pete Yorn from 2011 which includes some of his best songs since his 2001 Musicforthemorningafter.
I am still a huge Pete Yorn fan. I enjoyed the show and I know I will buy tickets the next time he visits the D.C. area. However, ArrangingTime will not be the album I anxiously await to hear.