Concert Review: Guster at The Kent Stage
April 3′s Guster concert at the Kent Stage was part of a special acoustic tour. Though about half of the band’s catalog is primarily acoustic, this concert was a departure from the usual Guster live show, which has an abundance of atmosphere created by guitar, vocal and keyboard effects. However, that didn’t deter the group from putting on a hell of a show.
The night started out with Guster member Luke Raynolds playing a a 15 minute set as a last-minute replacement for opener Jeff Garlin. Garlin, the comedian you may know from Curb Your Enthusiasm or as a voice from various Pixar movies, wasn’t able to make the show. Reynolds played a handful of songs with just him and an acoustic guitar, mostly folk and blues-driven pieces, and had some hilarious stage banter to go with it.
Guster was accompanied by a cellist and a violinist. I think this can add a generous layer of cheese to a lot of live setups, but Guster managed to pull it off tastefully. The string players were essential on songs such as the opener, “Backyard,” where a couple of acoustic guitars, bass and drums may have made the song fall short as compared to the album version on Keep It Together.
The show continued for a few songs in a similar fashion, with the group and string section playing fun but faithful renditions of some fan favorites such as “Do You Love Me?” a surprisingly well-done rendition of the uncharacteristically heavy “The Beginning of the End” and “Diane,” as well as some songs rarely played live, such as “Rainy Day” and b-side “Rise and Shine.” During “Diane,” members of the audience brought toy cars to the stage, as the band requested on their Facebook. For every show of this particular tour, the fans have been asked to bring things to decorate the stage, such as lamps and plants. Toy cars were Kent’s mission, and they pulled through. After a few more songs, the show went off the rails.
I’ve seen Guster around six to eight times now, and they are masters of audience interaction. This time around, they had Luke Reynolds pick out one of the toy cars, and had the audience member who brought it request a song. The gentleman who had his car picked out requested “Window” from Guster’s first album, Parachute. Guster obliged, but they went out into the audience and performed the song, with lead singer Ryan Miller sitting on the dude’s lap. Someone took a video of it, in fact:
The band then requested that the audience members tweet their next request. After reading off some tweets people sent to the band about the show, their wives and Pabst Blue Ribbon, they played the requested “Center of Attention.” Between requests for Guster songs, it kind of fell into a mess of the band trying to figure out covers that the audience requested, including “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America, Hall & Oates, and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” which was sung wonderfully off-key by drummer Brian Rosenworcel.
After the fun chaos of the request portion of the show, the band went back into their usual setlist, playing songs from throughout their catalog, including “Either Way,” “Rocketship,” “Satellite,” “Two Points for Honesty” and closer “This Could All Be Yours.”
Perhaps the only mildly disappointing part of the night was the encore — “Jesus on the Radio,” done completely acoustic, un-miced and all. It is a great encore, but they’ve done it three or four of the many times I’ve seen them. It’s also kind of a bummer when you have loud people nearby so you can barely hear the band. I hoped they would at least try a different song in that format, such as similarly-twangy “The Captain.”
All in all, it was a great show. It’s just par for the course with Guster at this point. Great music, great energy, and great crowd interaction. If you get an opportunity to see them live, you will not be disappointed.