Portland-based singer-songwriter and folk artist John Craigie returned to his Los Angeles hometown Wednesday at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever, the 2nd of three cities for his intimate string of Let It Be Lonely shows, featuring songs from The Beatles’ Let It Be album. It follows his Seattle date last week (4/20) and upcoming Portland dates on May 1, 2 and 3. Craigie last played Los Angeles in November, headlining The Troubadour in support of his 2020 album Asterisk The Universe and he decided on a mini tour to showcase some of his favorite Beatles knowledge and tunes that marked the end of an era for The Fab Four.
For the intimate Hollywood Forever date, Craigie welcomed five fellow folk singers to open with Beatles covers of their own, including Moorea Masa, Rachel Mazer, Lucy Clearwater, Jenny O. and Jennah Bell. Moorea Masa mentioned John Craigie’s tour was one of the first she ever played and her gorgeous and soulful voice took flight on “Dear Prudence”. Rachel Mazer shared that she had learned “Mother Nature’s Son” from a college boyfriend, showcasing a lovely, folky yet soulful tone. Lucy Clearwater delivered a delicate version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, strumming gently while harnessing impressive control of her falsetto. Jenny O. played a dreamy “Strawberry Fields Forever” on guitar while her voice soared with elements of psychedelic yet warm vibes. Finally, Jennah Bell delighted with a beautiful “Help”, introducing it by saying “the lyrics recently settled into my body”. She added that there are songs one hears time and time again and then you finally hear it. She said, “That’s this song for me”.
John Craigie thrilled fans with his masterful harmonica, guitar skills and proved he’s quite the funny man as well, poking fun of himself, getting witty on Beatles trivia and dodging two booming sound mishaps during his wonderful set. Craigie wore a white shirt and bell bottom jeans with a flared leg. He started strumming and shook his shaggy hair for “Two of Us”, whistling out the tune at the end as the Beatles do. “So I’m singing the album Let It Be just by myself, which could be cool…it could also not be cool. I’ve only done it once before. Did Los Angeles ask for this? Los Angeles did not”, said Craigie, followed by audience laughter. “Your interest tonight depends on both artists, John Craigie and The Beatles” (more laughter).
Craigie’s pleasant voice shined on “All I Want Is You” with excellent guitar balancing his vocals, including a stellar harmonica section.
“Albums are weird ’cause you feel a certain way and then you put it out”, shared Craigie. “You write a bunch of songs about how cute you are with someone and then you get to a point where you’re not so cute. Albums are weird, Let It Be is a weird album because when it came out, The Beatles were broken up. It’s The Beatles trying to save the relationship. I feel like Let It Be is a visit to the relationship counselor’s office”.
Craigie made “Across The Universe” his own with a folkier version, gently strumming out the end. The slightly more rhythmic “I Me Mine” found the crowd whistling and wooing throughout Craigie’s performance. After some further stories about the January 1969 rooftop recording of the Let It Be album and documentary, Craigie played “The Long and Winding Road” with a beautiful blend of vocals and guitar on a truly heartfelt tune. “That used to be my least favorite Beatles song…and then I got older”.
Craigie played the bluesy, harmonica-led “For You Blue”, keeping its sweet love song colors with a spirited harmonica section. Some more standout harmonica moments took over on “I’ve Got A Feeling”, with strong guitar strums and an optimistic energy with the lyric “Everybody had a hard year” resonating with both the Beatles storytelling and the challenges of living throughout the past year(+).
“One After 909” showcased a growl in Craigie’s voice and later he talked in detail about each Beatles member, with special tributes to each rock icon. “Ringo got jacked”, said Craigie. “When you have a boy band, everyone gets a song”. He even mentioned Timberlake and Lance Bass and the place filled with laughter. There was no Ringo Starr song on Let It Be so John Craigie decided to play the first single he released following the Beatles break-up, “It Don’t Come Easy”, starting on harmonica and singing the catchy line “got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues”.
Craigie shared that John Lennon’s solo song “Jealous Guy” was created when he was writing more spiritual material, with John Craigie beautifully capturing the melody on guitar, joined by a magical harmonica instrumental section. He strummed a lively version of Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run”, which noted as being recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most exotic places his label had a studio.
Craigie talked about being agnostic, discussed religion in general and talked about growing up Catholic and going to Catholic school in Los Angeles. George Harrison’s song tribute was appropriately about God, earning cheers from the crowd on “My Sweet Lord”.
The whole evening was a love letter to the Beatles and to each individual member since John Craigie says he has no favorite. His nostalgic, heart-warming and witty set was not complete of course without the celebrated album’s title track “Let It Be”, which Craigie said is “arguably a pretty good song”. He added that it was his “gateway song to the Beatles” and how he grew up in the 90s listening to a lot of grunge and didn’t know too many Beatles songs besides “Octopus’s Garden” and “Yellow Submarine”. “Let It Be” sounded completely in Craigie’s wheelhouse as a performer and songwriter, with yet another amazing harmonica moment.
“This is really fun for me to do as a huge Beatles nerd”, said Craigie. “Next time I come to Los Angeles, I’ll just do my own thing”. He added that he will return in the fall. Craigie wrapped with the five opening talents joining him for the final, rhythmic track on Let It Be, “Get Back”. Prior to singing, he alluded to growth in his career, saying, “If you do it right, one person turns into two and two turn into four [and so on] and the next thing you know, you’re playing Beatles songs with your friends.” Craigie played harmonica again with so much ease, as if it was an extension of his body, taking his fans to another era, if just for a moment.
All photos by Alex Kluft