Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Kinder, Mellower kind of Guster. Paramount Theater Emerson College, Boston MA, April 21, 2012

This will be a good long entry. I should break it up into two. But...the whole day goes together, not just the Guster review. Forewarned is forearmed.

Aside from Barenaked Ladies, the other band that I would travel near and far to see many many times is Guster.

Due to the ongoing no-fun money situation, I have had to pass on seeing them several times in the past two years. And it looked like I was going to lose out on this tour too.  Abbey had mercy and gave me a ticket. For this, and for this show, I am again eternally thankful. This was not a show to be missed. This was a unique and very different performance. I'll outline that soon. But first...

Before the show, I met up with Abbey and Christine, two ladies I met through BNL shows and the BNL discussion boards, going back a very long time to when both of my children were shorter than I am. Which was a long time ago. The webpage said it was a 2pm show, but that was when doors opened, the opening act Mat Edgar went on at 3, and Guster would be on at 4. So we were there, technically an hour early. I wanted to get down there to have lunch with them, but we got a late start from here, so we ended up just hanging out killing time and catching up by the gazebo at the Boston Garden.

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous Boston Spring days, before it gets hot as a mother, and right when all of the everything is exploded into life and bloom.

 All the college students are out in their shorts and tank tops (boys and girls), pasty white from the stupid New England winter. Perspective students for Emerson and other schools are paraded through the city with matching T-shirts, touring the city and gawking at the scene. The homeless are all mixed in, and the Japanese tourists and beautiful metropolitan Islamist girls with their heads covered and high heel do-me pumps strutting around... it's a sight to behold. It is the perfect people watching space. We planted ourselves on a bench and did just that.

 At the next bench was a guy with a guitar, he'd stand up and play a song, singing quietly but loud enough for me to hear he was butchering "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

As usual, I managed to make eye contact with him... and he smiled. I asked "Do you know anything by The Band, in honor of Levon Helm?"

"Oh, did he pass away?" he asked, and walked over. We told him that he did, indeed, on Thursday. He started tuning and fiddling with the guitar and told us a story about Levon in the mid 70s in New York City, after Danko and Manuel were dead, and LSD. Then he played "The Weight," and I sang along with him, as best as I could. His phrasing was bizarre, and when he would do "and you put the load, put the load, put the loaaaaaaaad, puuuuuuuuuut thaaaaaaaa loaaaaaaaaadd....." it was hard to know if he was going to sing it 3, 4, 5 times so I did my best.

He called us his muses, inspiration. I told him we should be called "goddess, perfect, nymph, divine" from Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream." He asked if I could call his friend Billy, since he saw my cell phone. "Tell him Cole wants to know if he is gonna come down and play at the Common. I'll be here all day."

He doesn't have a cell phone, and he's homeless, and walking to the phone would be a pain in the ass. I was all ready to get voice mail and identify myself as Cole's personal assistant, but Billy answered, so I gave him the message. Billy said he'd be there as soon as he could. Cole was tickled pink.

He played another song that I don't remember the name of, but it is basically about going to Sugar Grove to marry, and mentions Harlan in Kentucky. I knew the refrain and sang it with him.

We talked about "Justified," which takes place in Harlan, a great show with great music, and I told him that song would be perfect. I asked if he listened to Newgrass like the Punch Brothers. He'd heard them on the local NPR station, but didn't really feel they were doing it right. I said he needed to see them live. We talked about live shows, and how live music is different. He talked about shows he'd seen, like Marshall Tucker and the Dead in the 70s in a field in New Jersey.

He asked what we were doing in town, we told him about Guster. He asked if they "jam" and we said "oh yes... they jam." he asked if we were going to trip for the show... and we let him down by saying no. We weren't even planning on smoking pot. To him, this was surprising. What a horrible way to go to a concert... sober!

He started picking out the beginning of "Friend of the Devil" by the Grateful Dead, and then he sang it slowly, deliberately. Christine and Abbey were ready to go, and they had stood up, but Cole was still singing, and I was singing along. Couldn't just walk away. But eventually he finished and we left. Cole, thanks for helping us pass the time. I hope wherever you are today on this rainy Sunday you're able to make some music... I took a couple pictures of him, but this one with my cell phone through Instagram is my favorite.

We then walked over to the Paramount Theater at Emerson College.

It being an afternoon show, Ryan Miller himself stated a couple of times was just plain weird to be indoors at a rock concert at 4 in the afternoon. Especially on a day as beautiful as it was.

I likened it to the Florida Rock and Roll Early Bird Special...Rock out, Dinner and Home In Time for "Matlock." I don't know if the evening shows were more raucous, but this audience (for the most part) was good and mellow, and were there to listen to music played and presented a little bit differently.

Comedian Jeff Garlin was touring with them, which you might think is weird but there is back story to this.

In the past they've done podcasts together, Jeff is admittedly a fan of the Gusters, and the mutual admiration is obvious. Jeff served as emcee, stand-up comedy guy,  a touch of lead vocalist and strangely and uniquely enough, a bit of observer/fan as they had a seat set up for him on stage to sit and watch and enjoy the show, just like us. He did some stand up at the beginning of the show, mostly observational (ie:  the girl in the front row who was relaxed enough to stick her camera and her feet up on the edge of the stage, and he busted on her for that).

And there were two little kids in the front row who weren't laughing at anything he had to say.

Now, the old adage is never to perform with children or animals, but Garlin doesn't roll that way. He ended up inviting the two kids up, ages 6 and 9, and told them to run around him while he talked.

They did.

And they did not stop.

They just kept going and going. He thought it was rather miraculous... could any of us do this? Could any of us do more than ten laps before giving up? He called the band out to "come look at this, you gotta see this!"

Ryan Miller came out and joined the kids, running around Garlin like small moons orbiting a planet.

Miller gave up, exhausted, after a few laps proving Garlin's point. But the kids kept going. "I don't know about you, from an audience perspective, but this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

Eventually he made them stop, and interviewed them. He asked them about whether or not they liked girls yet (a vehement NO from both of them), talked about what they want to be when they grow up. The older one, Josh, wants to be a football player. The younger one, Evan, wants to be an artist and he paints flower pots. So he riffed about how they were both gonna get all the chicks. The football player and the sensitive artist.

He asked about their favorite foods. The little one got kicked off the stage for saying "ice cream" because Jeff's standup set started with how he doesn't eat sugar anymore, and hasn't had ice cream in three years. The older one said "pie." So Jeff Garlin told him that if he's ever in a situation where he needs to fantasize about something to get through it, like a Jeff Garlin comedy set or a boring guster song, to just think about pie. Pot pie. And say "pot pie" in a funny voice and you'll always get a laugh.

Sound advice.

Garlin then brought out Guster, with two string players, and performed the Neil Diamond classic "Solitary Man." Garlin cannot sing for shit, but that didn't stop him, and didn't stop the process from being enjoyable. As far as the band goes... Guster nailed it, and I actually would have preferred to hear Ryan sing it... but ... it was for comedy! And it was good.

Garlin left the stage, and the band played several songs with the strings. Moving from old to new and back again, they went through a lot of their more mellow tunes.

I was actually able to get a lot of good shots of drummer Brian Rosenworcel, which normally impossible for me because he plays with a frenetic energy and is all over the place, and my camera just isn't good enough.

I was far enough away that full stage shots worked out well, but sadly not close enough to get some of the better facial expressions from Luke and Ryan that I was hoping to grab.

They played "Rainy Day," which is honestly one of my least favorite Guster songs. It bores me. But somehow this rendition with the strings gave it a whole different build and depth. The girls nailed that one, and I have a whole new appreciation for it.

The newer songs sounded lovely stripped down from their studio treatments and the older songs were refreshing and lovely. The audience was mellow and deeply appreciative.


there was one girl on our side of the room about five or six rows ahead of us, who just wouldn't stop screaming.


oh my god, shut up. Shut up already. At one point I actually yelled "shut up." I couldn't stop myself.

Jeff Garlin had come back out on stage to handle the Request Bowl. There was a bowl on the merchandise table before the show, so he was reaching in and retrieving requests. She just wouldn't stop screaming.

He addressed her a few times with comments that any "normal" person would "get. "Yes, we know, you like Guster. Relax." "Yes, Ryan knows you love him." I wanted him to say "oh my God what is wrong with this chick?" but he was trying to be a little more subtle. She just kept yelling things back to him, like they were the only two people on earth having a discussion in a room, by themselves.

Eventually, Brian got a touch annoyed because Garlin was trying to read requests and talk to the band but she would not stop yelling stuff out. So he got up from behind his drum kit, marched across the stage and picked up the set list. He showed it to her and said "See, Rocket Ship is there on the list. We're playing it later. Take it." And he gave her the set list.

She piped down.

In my heart of hearts, I honestly wondered if this was a young lady (she was in her 20s, I bet) who has some sort of ... social disability. Aspbergers. Something.

If she does, I'm a little bit more understanding. 

But if she doesn't and she honestly behaves this way in public, I have a real problem with this. What is wrong with people? What on earth was she thinking? She honestly NEARLY ruined the entire day for me. I was ready to march down there and say something like "Hey, kid. We're not in your living room. There are like 1000 people here who also like Guster and you will notice none of them are having a conniption fit the way you are. Pipe the heck down."

For Jeff Garlin and Brian to get irritated enough, that kind of iced it for me. The sad part was she got the set list. For being a loud and obnoxious crank. I've been to so many shows and have never gotten a set list.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

Anyway -- back to the story. The band had posted on Twitter to bring funny hats and throw them on stage and the hat would get your request played. I didn't see the Twitter posting (I don't use Twitter on my phone) which is too bad because I have a very funny hat that I would have brought.

They got a request for "The Captain," and it was fantastic. Another request was "Parachute," title track from the first album. So good to hear Adam singing lead again (I love Ryan and all but really love Adam). It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Someone else requested "Love For Me" which Ryan said was his least favorite Guster song, which is sad because I think it has such a great energy and rocks really hard. Brian's drumming on that song is intense... and it has great use of both Adam and Ryan vocally. They couldn't remember how to play it, so they got through what they could, and gave up laughing.

Ryan commented that coming home to Boston is difficult because everyone remembers the first album. Yup. We remember it and love it, even if you guys don't. Heh.

Then the last request was for "Jesus on the Radio" and the guys took all the funny hats and came to the edge of the stage and sang it without amplification. Jeff Garlin joined them and played a shaker, and it was fantastic.

My request, which I put in the bowl, was for their cover of The Band's "Wheel's on Fire," in memory of Levon. I thought it would be good to hear after Cole's rendition of "The Weight" earlier in the day. I also put in a request "LET BRIAN SING!" He's the world's worst singer ever. Evidence here. And if you go to Youtube and look for Brian Rosenworcel singing, there are so so many grand examples of his vocal awfulness. And it is so much fun.

The string players came back out, and they served up a few more songs including the horribly sad "Rocket Ship" that the lady who screamed for it wanted to hear so badly. Absolutely beautifully done.

I keep saying how everything was beautiful, and it was. I am not exaggerating.

The entire presentation was intimate, personal, and beautiful. The treatment of each song was delicate and loving. Songs like "Diane" and "Long Way Down" were just spectacularly presented. And Luke can really whistle. Who knew? The only song missing that would have made this absolutely perfect was "Window," because it is a Guster song with a violin part in it from its original recording, and is one of my favorites.

At a full blown up on your feet rock show, these sensations don't get felt as strongly. Noticing the artistry in the playing, the eye contact between the performers, you're too busy dancing and singing along to your favorite songs. This way, it was a real honest performance in ways like I've never seen a rock band perform.

I would love to see this kind of a show again and again.

They ended up with a big song off their new album which I guess is in a movie so everyone knows it. "This Could All Be Yours" and the crowd was on its feet for that one. All told, a tremendous show... and they got to come back 2 hours later and do it again. Before the encore, Ryan said "go, enjoy the rest of the day and your... supper?" which was a really funny way to end the matinee performance.

I hope the night performance was just as good, unexpected, funny, and great. What a wonderful way to end this tour, with these shows in Boston, with an audience that obviously loves them very much, no matter what age.

Footnote mention is that the show opener was a LA based comedian named Mat Edgar.

He seemed incredibly nervous, kind of self conscious. He was thrown off by the kids in the front row (who later orbited Jeff Garlin) and realized that some of his material was going to have to be different based on content.

He was self deferential, made fun of his size which is in the opposite direction of Jeff Garlin's size and he made fun of himself too. I guess no one on earth is every happy with their size, whether they're fat or thin. Some of his jokes were pretty good, I liked him talking about his parents being 19 when they had him so when his dad said "Son, I remember when I was your age (26)" his response was "Dad, I remember when you were my age!" Extra points to him for having a Pink Floyd T-shirt on. Considering how many people I know younger than me who have no idea who they are.

All told, a great day.  All the pictures are up in Flickr if you want to see them. I usually get six keepers out of a Guster show due to back lighting and movement, so it was fun to get over sixty. Enjoy. There are some nice ones in there.

Thanks guys, for this incredibly beautiful show.

1 comment:

  1. What a thoughtful, thorough review. I really enjoyed reading it, thanks!