Guster certainly knows how to make an entrance. Last summer they rode into Harborlights, or whatever they call the venue now, on Segways while Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” blasted over the loud speakers. This time in Boston they went for the baseball themed entry. Curiously there was no name above the marquee.
Rather than discuss the Guster opener, we’ll just supply the video courtesy of a concert goer. Though this is from the Saturday, 4.21.07 show it’s the exact same opener. Needless to say, this went over big in the Red Sox loving crowd.
Set list: What You Wish For / Manifest Destiny / Great Escape / One Man Wrecking Machine / Amsterdam / Either Way / Ruby Falls / C’Mon / Barrell of a Gun / Airport Song / Glad to Be On My Own / Come Downstairs and Say Hello/ Demon / Satellite / Red Oyster Cult / Happier / Empire State / Brazil (1937 Dance Song) / The Captain E: Keep It Together/ Jesus on the Radio (unplugged)
So what stood out? Well for starters they played seven songs off the new album, three off of Goldfly, the big goose egg off of Parachute, four off Lost and Gone Forever, and five off of Keep It Together. They played an odd barber shop quartet type cover and a tune from Joe Pisapia. They got the classic baseball “charge” chant going and pretty much melted the faces off of everyone in the audience.
I was not prepared for just how muscular and mean of a band Guster has morphed into. With Joe in the band, they’re free to add bass and piano to pretty much every song. They even had two touring musicians, one played piano and the other played the drum set when the Thunder God was on bongos. All in all it was one of the damn finest shows I’ve seen in a while.
The band turned “Amsterdam” into a three-guitar attack similar to a Skynerd song. Oddly, the crowd seemed really passive despite rocking numbers like “Amsterdam,” “Manifest Destiny,” “Great Escape,” and “C’mon” early in the set. It wasn’t until crowd favorite “Barrel of a Gun” when everyone started jumping up and down and getting into the show.
Ryan Miller, as full time front man, was engaging and humorous. Cracking jokes about Joe Pisapia’s package and ability to play cowbell, one particular audience member’s ability to hold six beers, not spill any beer and cheer on the band and poking fun of the stoner holiday by telling the audience we should be celebrating Marie Curie’s extracting uridium on this day back in 1905. All in all good fun.
But, midway into the show, when the band launched into “Airport Song,” changing it into a bluesy, psychedilic Doors-esque number, like something off of “Strange Days,” it was clear this wasn’t the same band from back in the day. The song, actually fairly scary like a mescaline trip gone off the rails, had distorted vocals and a devestatingly good bongo solo.
“Red Oyster Cult” was a temporal assault with Pisapia and Gardner trading loud and heavy prog rock guitar licks. And the Thunder God has never played the drum faster or louder, just hammering the kick drum. The only reprieve came from the bridge where the group whistled and then had a three-part harmony before more guitar solos.
After finishing off the live favorite, “Happier” the band brought an audience member up on stage to run through another banner, while Joe played the baseball chant “Charge!” Sort of humorous and brought everything full circle. It was then the band began the contemplative “Empire State,” a delicate and obtuse tribute to the recovery of NYC after 9/11. Oddly, at this time the Red Sox scored five runs off of Mariano Rivera to take the lead in Friday’s game. Of course, this being Boston, a “let’s go Red Sox” chant broke out among a handful in the audience. It was loud enough and really, only in Boston would this happen, distracting enough for Ryan Miller to have to joke about it later on.
They closed witht the unplugged “Jesus on the Radio” with Pisapia on banjo. The crowd almost entirely silent. But that only underscored the disapointment with the band not using banjo on several other songs like “Keep It Together” and “The Captain.” Especially since that’s what made the studio recordings of those songs so freaking cool. Regardless it was a dang good show from the hometown boys and showed just why they’re a band poised for bigger and better things down the road.
More photos from Ms. Burton after the jump.
The “You’re Going to Hell” Guy. Boston’s version of the “John 3:16” guy. If he’s at an event you know it’s a big deal.
So yeah, this show was a big deal. Amen brothah!