Monday, September 12, 2016

Concert Review: Guster - November 21, 2015

It was a beautiful Saturday night in late November, and once again, Mrs. Vie and I were going to witness the always fantastic Guster in concert. After seeing them live earlier that summer, I knew they were going to give an incredible performance. This time around we would be enjoying their show from the Wellmont Theatre, an exceptional venue located in Montclair, New Jersey.

We arrived early, and once again, my lovely wife put us as close to the stage as possible. We were up against the barricade and could easily reach over and touch the stage. It was nice to be that close to the action and my wife was ecstatic. I was pretty excited myself.

The opening band had won the opportunity to open for Guster at this show. For their fall tour, Guster held a contest that a local college/high school band near each venue would open the evening. For The Wellmont Theatre that meant The Emily Youth Project would be the opening act. Clearly I knew nothing about the band, the same as most audience members. This was a local, unknown band who were handed a great opportunity. I was interested in seeing how they would make the most of it.

The Emily Youth Project was nothing short of spectacular. Considering that I didn’t know any of their songs or anything about the band, they came out and gave a stupendous performance. They absolutely blew the crowd away! Although they are a young and new band, they commanded the stage like seasoned professionals. Their ability was magnificent and they showed a maturity and stage presence well beyond their years. By the end of their set, the entire crowd was clapping and dancing along with their songs. I was extremely impressed with the band.

After The Emily Youth Project wrapped up, I took a moment to look around the theater before Guster would come out. I noticed that the General Admission area was pretty much sold out and packed, but the balcony seating was sparse. That was disappointing, as I’ve always felt that Guster is a band that should be selling out the venues they perform at. However, knowing Guster after having seen them a few times, I knew that the size of the crowd did not make a difference to them. They were going to come out and give us a magnificent performance no matter what.

We stood through the setting up of the stage, took in all the little nuances that we could, and then the house lights went down and Guster came out to the roar of the crowd. They opened with a terrific rendition of “Ramona” and the night was off and running.

“Satellite,” the new track “Simple Machine,” and “Happier” were next and it was an exquisite pack of songs to begin the concert. Classic staples and newer hits blended together to start the night off right. I was grinning by the end of “Happier” and just knew that we were in for an amazing night.

My favorite track from the new album, “Kid Dreams” was performed as well as “Never Coming Down” and “Lazy Love.” I felt that Guster paid the right amount of attention to their latest album while mixing in plenty of hits and deeper cuts. At one point in the night, the band decided to take an audience vote on which song they wanted to hear. The choices were “Two Points For Honesty” and “Happy Frappy.” The loudest applause and cheers would get the song performed. “Two Points For Honesty” won out by a landslide and the band went on to play an exceptional version of it. Singer/guitarist Ryan Miller admitted after the song that he didn’t like to perform most of the older songs, he preferred to stick with the newer material. He then admitted that he had so much fun playing “Two Points For Honesty” that the band was going to play “Happy Frappy” anyway. This received a huge roar of approval from the crowd. What he didn’t tell the crowd was that they hadn’t played the song live in so long, they were going to sing the verses out of order. They butchered the verses which forced quizzical glances from Ryan and Adam at each other. When Ryan started to sing the same verse again, Adam noted that he sang that verse already and they made a small bit out of it. Guster always finds a way to entertain, even through their mess ups. And the crowd did not care. They got to hear “Happy Frappy.”

It was also Ryan’s birthday. Toward the end of the set, Ryan was presented with a birthday cake and a little birthday party hat that he wore for a while. It was comical seeing him sing songs with a birthday party hat strapped to his head. It was just another reason to love this band.

The encore was set up in a way that only Guster could do. They made up a song on the spot called “Zombie Jews.” They told the audience that the band was going to lie down on the stage ike they were dead and then they would slowly rise like Zombies to play the encore. Then another verse of the fictious song “Zombie Jews” was played and the band lay down on the stage just like they said they would. It was comical and entertaining. Shortly after lying down, the band slowly rose like Zombies and went into the encore.

The encore was a solid pack of hits (including their newest one). The last song of the night was a special Guster joke that they entertain from time to time. Drummer/Bongo specialist, Brian Rosenworcel stepped out from behind the bongos and took the microphone. It was time to sing a cover song. The band launched into Wham’s “Careless Whisper” with Brian screaming his way through the vocals. I laughed through the entire song, enjoying the joke of it. It’s also my kind of esoteric comedy.

Once again, Guster was amazing in concert and I can’t wait to see them again. It was a terrific performance and being so close to the stage for the second Guster concert in a row was a real treat. Compliments to my wife who always seems to bring me out of comfort zone for all the right reasons.

Simple Machine
Doin’ It By Myself
Kid Dreams
Homecoming King
Come Downstairs And Say Hello
Do You Love Me
Never Coming Down
Two Points For Honesty
Happy Frappy
Ruby Falls
Lazy Love
Barrel Of A Gun
This Could All Be Yours
Long Night
One Man Wrecking Machine
Manifest Destiny
Airport Song
Careless Whisper (Wham cover – Brian on vocals)

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