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Candle Lit: Damien Jurado, Jake Hemming and Amelia Saakian

Friday, March 8, Urban Grace Church

DAMIEN JURADO: He was in his own world at the Urban Grace Church in Tacoma. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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The Urban Grace Church, the sold-out seats and glowing candelabras played a lovely backdrop to a night that allowed Amelia Saakian, Jake Hemming and Damien Jurado to shine. The audience embraced every word during last night's Candle Lit show, presented by The Warehouse. And the singers sounded simply glorious: precise, spirited, passionate, resonant and stylistically true. I'm not sure there's a better word to describe the night than "beautiful."

At times, the only sound disrupting the three performer's musical montage of their passing lives was the thud of candle wax hitting the wood floor.

Pianist Saakian played and sang pleasingly soft with an almost bittersweet undertone. I was transfixed on each key selection. Her quiet melodies were accented with punctuations from cellist Emily Ann Peterson, and, in the case of the last song, the deep, low voice of Aaron Stevens.

I never had a clear picture of Hemming's set, even from my front-row seat. I watched the towering man perform gut wrenchingly painful yet still beautifully melancholy performance through watery eyes. His tales of loss and true love moved me, and left other audience members weeping. Taking time away from his folk quintet, Big Sur, Hemming, 32, came across as the most gentle of humans. It's only when he belted out pain, crushing his eyelids together as if the lids might transpose, that I was reminded of his towering stature and force. When he acknowledged his two friends in the balcony, two roommates from his last years of his 20s, proclaiming his love for them ... I've never seen such love spoken from stage. The set was a moving, musical joy.

Without acknowledgment to the crowd, Jurado busily prepared for his set, launching into his well-oiled machine of melancholy, head down. His powerful, restrained voice dripped with sorrow and beauty, carrying the weight of the world so we didn't have to. It wasn't until two-thirds into his set did he address his audience, which sat five feet away. He gave thanks, explained his red shirt choice, proclaimed his love for pink shell chandeliers and 2012 white Mustangs, apologizing for his demeanor. He doesn't sleep.

Jurado's unforgettable voice was so imperfectly pure, and his songwriting so coarsely despairing, that he made despondent start to feel like its own reward. And why not? He's good at it.

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