Joseph Raise Their Voices—and the Crowd’s—at Crystal Ballroom

Some artists engage audiences by bringing the funk and getting booties shaking.

Roots pop ensemble Joseph doesn’t do much of that. But during its sold-out show at Crystal Ballroom on April 28, it did something even more amazing: Singing sister sirens Natalie, Allison and Meegan Closner got 1,500 riveted concertgoers to fill their lungs, open their throats and join in without inhibition, while clapping until their hands sang, too.

Natalie, stage left, shook her curly locks and directed traffic with acoustic guitar. Meegan, stage center, in ponytail and red kerchief, stretched her arms wide during high notes. Her twin Allison, stage right, hair in a bun, did what looked like tai chi with her hands.

The women’s pipes are truly a force of nature. Rarely, if ever, will you hear vocalists as locked in, with such astonishing harmonic intimacy, range, breath control, mic control, tone, balance and power.

Despite the name, Joseph is not contemporary Christian music. Still, at times the all ages show was a churchy barn-burner. It makes sense, because at their best, Joseph’s music can facilitate the best singing-in-the-shower moments you’ve ever had.

That may be why they’re among Portland’s most successful artists now, touring internationally while riding the success of their second album on ATO Records, 2016’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. The sisters, named for a small town in the heart of the Wallowa Mountains, have been a comet since 2014’s debut album and living room tours.

“This is the biggest show we’ve ever headlined—thank you!” Meegan Closner said.

There was plenty of crowd chatter during weaker songs, but when they played “White Flag,” the song that hit No. 1 on the Adult Alternative chart, the energy popped. An audience that was two-thirds women hollered, “Burn the white flag!”

It’s not clear how long the group has included the three men who played drums, bass, guitar and keyboards behind them, but the band’s web site and Facebook page both still portray Joseph as a sister trio. There was also a musical disconnect between the sisters and the rhythm section—at times, for example, the electric guitar was completely inaudible.

If the Closners can better integrate the rhythm section—perhaps by writing and arranging songs with a rhythmic complexity equal to the melodic—it’s scary to imagine how good they’ll be.

Then again, it’s tough to have your cake and eat it, too. Innovative production, funky drums and bass or monstrous guitar hooks would take up sonic space currently occupied by the Closners’ honeyed, spine-tingling harmonies and simple, three-chord tunes. Eschewing rock for a lullaby, the sisters brought the house down and left on a high note with the second encore and last song of the night, inspired by their mom: “Sweet Dreams.”

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