The band has been based in the Cincinnati area since 1989 so these guys have some history. But Over the Rhine was not content to go to their catalogue as they certainly were not afraid to play a good chunk of the new double-CD set with a dozen songs of the 19.
Bergquist clearly was the focal point with a strong voice and taking almost all lead vocals throughout the 105-minute show. Bergquist sang with a warmth and clarity.
What seemed most apparent was the connection the band enjoys with the material. Bergquist, for example, wrote Against the Grain from the new disc, about her father in law. There were songs about life on the pre-Civil War farm owned by the OTR principals, including about the sky (Blue Jean Sky) and birds (Favorite Time of Light).
Detweiler played a less prominent role than his wife. He was mainly found on keyboards or acoustic guitar and took a very few lead vocal lines. More often, he contributed backing harmonies to his wife to good effect. And he took a good turn in the somewhat lengthy intro to All Over Ohio, telling his interesting family background where music had been banned for religious reasons by his grandparents.
Over the Rhine benefitted from a very strong backing band, which included ace musicians Jay Bellarose on drums and Eric Heywood on pedal and lap steel, Dobro and guitars. The playing was clean and vibrant throughout, while enabling Bergquist's pretty vocals to shine through.
The material may tend to be a bit on the serious side topically in contemplating, but Over the Rhine makes home sound most joyous, even welcoming.
Tift Merritt opened - barely - with another one of her consistently enjoyable outings. The diminutive New Yorker via North Carolina was aided and abetted throughout by Heywood, who was doing double duty this night, on pedal steel and guitar.
The "barely" part was because four minutes before she was slated to hit the stage, Merritt received a text that show time was at hand. The only problem was that she was having dessert at a nearby restaurant with Heywood. The duo scooted to the theatre and were none the worse the wear, save getting a good story out of the deal.
The beauty of Merritt during her eight-song set was her voice, although having a batch of good songs tends to help. Like the headliners, her songs and attitude come off as very heartfelt. Sometimes a bit wounded, but always honest.