Pete Yorn takes the stage by himself Saturday night at the legendary Roxy Theatre, asks a fan near the front of the stage which song he should open the set with, then sits down and proceeds to perform that very song. He’s calling this the You & Me tour, but it might be more accurately referred to as an anti-tour. There is no opening act, no backing band, no electric instruments, and as it turns out, no fixed set list. After rousing the crowd with a singalong of his biggest hit Life On A Chain, he begins encouraging the audience to shout out more requests.
The solo acoustic nature of the performance is a changeup from what fans have come to expect from the typical Pete Yorn concern performance over the years, as he more often has a rock band backing him on tour. Throw in the fact that he doesn’t have a new album to promote and therefore has time to dig deep into his own back catalog, and the evening ends up being a rather unique alternative glimpse into an artist who has been on the national scene for fourteen years.
Some of the songs he performs on this night end up sounding not much different from their full-instrument album versions, a reminder that Yorn’s breed of rock has largely been a gentle one over the years. But midway through the set he delves into loud rocker Come Back Home in a manner which almost turns it into a different song. Despite The Roxy’s historic place in the pantheon of rock music, this show at times had the intimacy of a coffee house performance.
Even within the freeform nature of the evening, there were moments which end up feeling more structured. Yorn straps on his harmonica midway through the set to perform his cover of Warren Zevon’s Splendid Isolation, followed by Bandstand In the Sky, his tribute to the late Jeff Buckley. Later in the set he performs a song from his collaboration with Scarlett Johansson and hints that she would have been there on stage singing it with him if she weren’t currently out of the country; instead he encourages the audience to fill in her vocal parts, and they eagerly oblige.
The encore includes a wistful cover of Surfer Girl by the Beach Boys. Then he seems to make a point of closing out the evening with a fan favorite, For Nancy (Cos It Already Is), and throws in a kick drum in just the right places. For a guy who tends to play most of the instruments on his studio albums, it only seems fitting that by night’s end he’s serving as his own live drummer.
Between the opportunity to hear intimate versions of his biggest hits, to the dusting off of live rarities, to the opportunity to more or less dictate the setlist, the You & Me tour is a unique opportunity for Pete Yorn fans to see the artist from a different angle. The tour continues up the California coast this month.