Ryan Miller of Guster introduced the concert at the Paramount in Huntington, Long Island, yesterday as an acoustical/comedy combination and he laid out the ground rules. They would play a set, take requests in the middle (but if you shouted out a song they would not play it), and then finish off; all while comedian Jeff Garlin would come on and off stage (and maybe even play a song with the band – because of prior curiosity I knew he would be doing a Neil Diamond cover). As Guster put it, they are modern music men. The interactive, crowd-friendly concert was proof of this sentiment. While mainstays Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel are pushing 40, they still relate exceptionally well with a young crowd, earning them the title of the ”Ageless College Band” – but, come on, any Guster fan can tell you that in the band’s years of performing they have certainly superseded the “college” title in pure musical talent.
Like billed, the concert was truly a comedy/acoustic combination. Jeff Garlin was the emcee and his scriptless blend of comedy carried the beginning of the show (which also featured a comedian that he brought along with him from California named Matt Edgar). Garlin, who most now know from Curb Your Enthusiasm, is hilarious. While the crowd became restless (it took a while before Guster came on stage), I enjoyed his brash style of “I don’t give a crap” comedy and I thought he pulled off a funny set.
Guster came out with a two-person string accompaniment and knocked through “Backyard” and new hit “Do You Love Me” with normal Guster proficiency. I immediately was struck by the smoothness of the strings. Guster has sampled strings in their music before so the orchestral addition in the concert was not shocking. Guster’s unique blend of alt/pop with acoustic proclivity is set up well for strings (or other unique instrumentation).
The first set flew by. The band was producing tremendous sound from some sweet-sounding acoustic guitars, bass, keys, and Rosenworcel’s classic eccentric drum set. Then, as the crowd seem to be getting settled in, Jeff Garlin glided out on the stage (prompting a Ryan Miller-led improv and odd Garlin dance) and introduced the request portion of the show. On the piano laid a fish bowl and concertgoers were given the opportunity to write requests, questions, or covers, and give their scraps of paper to Jeff who would pick out pieces and tell the band the song to play. This, of course, led to some pretty funny interactions. A girl tried to bribe the band to play “Mona Lisa” with dollar bills. They declined (but took the money!) Someone asked “Who is the roughest lover,” and the band concluded it was relative newcomer Luke Reynolds.
Songs were also played. Excellent songs. “Airport Song,” “Amsterdam,” and “Demons” within a span of 15 minutes. The crowd buzzed and sang along (as well as throwing ceremonial ping pong balls at the band after “Airport Song”).
The second set brought my favorite Guster song, “Either Way” followed by another gem “Satellite.” Here is a version of “Either Way” from earlier in the tour.
The beginning is similar to the type of off-the-cuff humor that we experienced last night. You know what I loved about it. It was just so real. You almost felt that you were back in Tufts seeing Guster in their incipient stages. The venue was intimate but the humor reminded me of inside jokes I used to have with my band. The interaction was fresh and humorous. I believe everyone felt like they belonged and that is something Guster does so well at their shows.
“Either Way” is subtle. It is carried by excellent harmony blending with a strong acoustic melody. I love the note Miller hangs when he holds out way. The strings just add to the calmness of this piece. But, don’t be fooled, the song, while soft, is tinged with emotion and passion.
I want to also provide you with a video of “This Could All Be Yours” which was played at the end of the concert last night. This song, off of the newest release, is very poppy but, hey, I like it.
I said it last time I saw Guster in Ithaca and I will say it again. Some bands do not enjoy themselves when they are performing. Guster does. You can tell they genuinely enjoy what they do and appreciate fans for listening to them. The concert was positively affected by this happiness and it was a joy seeing them for the third time – makes me want to keep coming back.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Jeff Garlin performed a William Shatner-like rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” Here is him performing it in Milwaukee on April 7.
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