Photos: Pete Yorn, Dear Boy and Rain Phoenix at the El Rey Theatre

Pete Yorn at the El Rey Theatre (Photo by ZB Images)

Pete Yorn’s Thursday night show at the El Rey Theatre was somber and heartfelt with a touch of hope and joy.

Rain Phoenix opened the night with songs from her album “River,” an homage to her late brother that was released on the anniversary of his death, Oct. 31. She was joined onstage by the very talented and fuzzy Kirk Hellie, who played a haunting acoustic guitar most of the set.

L.A. quartet Dear Boy joined Phoenix and Yorn for three nights of his tour, with the El Rey being their last. They were beside themselves with gratitude for the opportunity to play with Yorn, someone who they said had influenced their own songwriting. Most of their set was subdued, but they let things rip for their last song of the set, “Hesitation Waltz.”

Yorn took the stage and greeted the familiar faces in the crowd that have been following him since his debut album in 1999 … which we are told is 20 years ago, not sure how that is possible.

Yorn told the story of how he moved to L.A. from New Jersey in 1996 for law school, but he decided to give music a go first. It took two years for him to get a meeting with Columbia Records, though after playing them two of what would become his hits, they dismissed him with a “we’ll call you.” Months went by and he sought out the advice of a mentor who gave him “a new chord,” which he still doesn’t know what to call, and instructed him to write a song about it. Which he did, and two days later someone from Columbia came out to see what new things he was working on. Yorn played him the song and Columbia said “let’s make a record.” That song “Life on a Chain” became his first song on his first album and likely the one that hooked most of the audience some 20 years ago.

Yorn played a mix of songs from his new album “Caretakers,” which he made with Jackson Phillips of Day Wave, who played guitar and keys on this tour. Yorn explained that the album was about caretakers, and that the birth of his daughter had changed his music. The album also is about how music saves people, and Yorn mentioned he always likes to end them with a little hope. Phoenix joined in for the duet on “Relator,” a song Yorn made with Scarlett Johansson, hiding lyrics in her hat. Yorn ended his encore with a song he said just flew out of him. “For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is).”

Setlist: Idols (We Don’t Ever Have to Say Goodbye), On Your Side, I Wanna Be the One, Can’t Stop You, Just Another, ECT, Strange Condition, Halifax, Try, Pass Me By, Turn of the Century, Life on a Chain. Encore: Crystal Village, Relator (with Rain Phoenix), Calm Down, For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)

Photo and recap by ZB Images