When The Head and the Heart took the stage at the Orpheum Tuesday night, the absence of lead singer Josiah Johnson was obvious. During the band’s 2014 tour to support their album Let’s Be Still, Johnson’s charismatic presence and heart-wrenching tenor formed the center around which the other musicians orbited. He was the lead. The frontman.

And now he is gone, grappling with an addiction problem that has him in rehab. But the band has a new album — Signs of Light — and a determination to feed off the momentum they’ve built in the last few years.

Head and Heart Orpheum

So what was missing from a Head and the Heart show that didn’t include Josiah Johnson? Well, it was like The Head and the Heart was missing the Head. But the Heart, in the form of band members who rallied to fill the void, was passionate and committed enough to deliver a rousing show.

Head and Heart Boston 1As the first chords of opening number “All We Ever Knew” reverberated throughout the theater, any skepticism about their ability to pull it off was ushered out the door. Before long, the audience was standing, clapping and singing along to “Another Story,” “Lost in My Mind,” “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” and “Down in the Valley.” When the set got to the final number of the night, crowd favorite “Rivers and Roads,” it was hard to remember that the band on stage was at anything less than 100 percent.

Head and Heart Boston 2

Assuming Johnson gets healthy and rejoins the band, the experience of performing without him should benefit the group. Guitarist Jonathan Russell and violinist Charity Rose Thielen, along with recent addition Matty Gervais, have been forced to shoulder the load as they share vocalist duties. Thielen was already a force, drawing deafening applause every time she approaches a microphone.

But the other two have learned that they, too, can be stars. Which bodes well for The Head and the Heart’s future when Johnson returns. How many headlining bands could go on tour without their lead singer and not miss a beat? Hard to say, but it’s probably a short list … and The Head and the Heart are on it.


The Head and the Heart tour dates are here.

The Orpheum Theater, Boston

Set list:

1. All We Ever Knew
2. City of Angels
3. Ghosts
4. Rhythm & Blues
5. Another Story
6. Let’s Be Still
7. Your Mother’s Eyes
8. Lost in My Mind
9. Winter Song
10. Oh My Dear
11. I Don’t Mind
12. Colors
13. Sounds Like Hallelujah
14. Down in the Valley


16. Library Magic
17. Cats and Dogs
18. Coeur d’Alene
19. Shake
20. Rivers and Roads