Jonathan Wilson is known as much for his recording and production work for other artists as he is for his own music, and probably because he’s always so busy in that regard it can be a long time between his own releases. His second album, 2013’s Fanfare, built strongly on the word-of-mouth momentum that propelled his solo debut Gentle Spirit into the spotlight, but for the last several years he’s been largely silent on the solo front. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been busy though. Fresh off of producing Father John Misty’s latest record Real Comedy and an extended time spent first playing on Roger Waters’ Is This the Life We Really Want? and then touring the world with Waters’ band, Wilson released his third album, Rare Birds, at the beginning of the month. For his first time in DC in several years (outside of the Roger Waters show last summer), Wilson brought a full band to the Rock and Roll Hotel to perform the album for a roomful of fans, many of whom have been waiting some time to see him.
Wilson opened the show, as he does with the album, with the grooving “Trafalgar Square,” setting a rocking mood for the evening. From the chilled-out vibes of “Over the Midnight” and “Sunset Blvd” to the more rocking “There’s a Light” and “Rare Birds,” Wilson took the audience on an intense, nearly two-hour-long ride through the core of the album, playing the first ten tracks from it. While he didn’t spend a lot of time looking back, he also found time in there to work in a few older songs, “Dear Friend” from Fanfare and “Desert Raven” and “Valley of the Silver Moon” from Gentle Spirit.
Wilson was joined by legendary ambient musician Laraaji for vocals and zither on his song “Loving You” halfway through the set. Laraaji also served as an opener playing a set of his own music focused around his zither and his voice.