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Mark Olson and Gary Louris

CLUB CONGRESS, Monday, April 13

Their formula calls for little more than strumming guitars and singing, but it's how they perform those simple acts together that creates magic for Mark Olson and Gary Louris.

Onstage as musical partners again after spending more than a decade estranged, Olson and Louris fit perfectly into the grooves they've worn into each other. While each has become a masterful singer-songwriter in his own right after 25 years of recording and touring, they're best together, thanks to that immediately distinguishable harmony that made the Jayhawks roots-rock legends.

The duo opened with "The Rose Society," which also leads off their new Ready for the Flood album, their first collaborative material since 1995. Both live and recorded, the song wastes no time laying the agenda bare: With a little ache, a wistful beauty and guitars chiming together like shafts of afternoon light, this effort is rooted in a return to the familiar Olson and Louris alchemy.

And so the duo sang, for nearly two hours, backed by just their own guitars—with Louris stepping up for some nimble country-folk leads—and the fittingly spare percussion from Ingunn Ringvold on the djembe and various shakers.

Live, Olson and Louris manage to set their new songs up alongside Jayhawks favorites and show that the only real difference is in the 15-year head start for some listeners. Olson and Louris might make a more crowd-pleasing show out of a straight Jayhawks set, but Monday night, they let a whole new batch of songs fly out into the world, confident that down the road, these new ones will draw the same explosion of cheers that the old ones do now.

"Turn Your Pretty Name Around," "Saturday Morning on Sunday Street," "Doves and Stones" and "The Trap's Been Set" are among the best of the new stuff. Reaching back to the twin towers of 1992's Hollywood Town Hall and 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass, Olson and Louris also played "Nothing Left to Borrow," "Red's Song," "Two Hearts," "Over My Shoulder" and "Waiting for the Sun."

After holding a mostly seated crowd attentive for nearly two hours, Olson and Louris closed with "Blue," perhaps the best example of their simple and stunning musical blend.

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