Live Instrumental Energy from Judah & the Lion


Photo by Ray Gill

Use of lights and smoke put on a show of their own during Judah & the Lion’s concert at the Union Event Center. (Photo by Ray Gill | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ray H., Arts Writer

Judah & the Lion took on the relatively small stage at the Union Event Center in Salt Lake City with an impressive setup. From a wide range of instruments throughout their performance to a powerful light show, no corner of the stage was left without their distinctive energy. The trio Judah & the Lion has made successful leaps during and prior to the current world tour, “Pep Talks,” with Flora Cash. From the band’s single “Let Go” serving as this season’s ESPN College Football coverage anthem to song collaborations with Grammy Album of the Year Winner Kacey Musgraves, I don’t know how I’ve missed them.

Photo by Ray Gill
Judah & the Lion opening with “Pep Talks” while lights accentuate silhouettes in the beginning.

As the lights beamed to life with the curtain still closed, fans packed the venue full. Strangely, the curtain remained closed well into the opening song, “Pep Talks.” However, this was all part of the act. Different colored lights were used to emphasize each silhouette in this distressing and sorrowful electronic adventure. Screams from fans exploded once the curtain was lifted, revealing a large band with a wide range of instruments including not one, but two drum sets — and the instruments were not just for show. 

Judah & the Lion is influenced from a clash of various genres, including bluegrass, metal, folk, rock, hip hop and electronic. This mirrors the trio’s melding of three personalities. Judah Akers, lead singer, would swap between guitar and tambourine while Brian Macdonald played mandolin and Nate Zuercher operated a banjo or electronic ukulele. As for the two drummers, one was strictly on a drum set and the other transitioned between multiple instruments, including drums, violin and even a keytar.

Photo by Ray Gill
Judah Akers lowers his microphone to address the audience in participating.

Instruments weren’t exclusive in bringing the band’s heartfelt tunes to life. Unique combinations of stage lights put on their own spectacle, adding to the show. While listening to several of the band’s songs in preparation for the concert, “Over My Head” really stood out for me as it rang parallel to the overwhelming weight I’d been going through as of late. Live, the emotion of this song bled off of the frontman Akers — which is the point of their newest album “Pep Talks” and made the feelings within the song even more real. 

Akers worked the audience into a frenzy, calling out each side of the room to make more noise than the other during certain parts of songs while Macdonald or Zuercher would play. Crowd-goers enthusiastically joined in the yelling and clapping as Akers picked up his microphone stand and hung it over the crowd moving from one side of the stage to the other. 

Courtesy of Judah & the Lion
Judah & the Lion on their “Pep Talks” World Tour (Courtesy of Judah & The Lion)

As the show went on, the performance became crazier. Akers led one of the songs with a solo dance off while lights blocked out the rest of the band. At one point, the trio pulled up their shirts over their faces while still performing. The heart-thumping output of the band’s alternative mix could be considered entertainment in itself, but they went the extra mile to interact with their fans.

Going out on a Tuesday night without any expectations, I have to say the trek was worth it. Bands who practice what they preach are rare in comparison to the abundance of artists who seem to sell out or fade as one hit wonders. Music may be seen as a job, but it is more than that. It is the transfer of something genuine between artist and listener, as any performer would know. Judah & the Lion showed that they understand this through their albums and on stage, and from my perspective, the band has earned another fan. 


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