by Lauren Salemo
Photos by Lauren Violette
Outside of Paradise Rock Club, a marquee sign illuminated the name “Charlie Burg” to every passerby on Commonwealth Avenue. But it was far from a one-man show: the performance seemed to be shared between Charlie Burg, his band, and the audience packed on the floor of the venue.
November 21st marked the final concert of Charlie Burg’s first headliner tour following the release of his debut album, Infinitely Tall, in August. Given that this album is his first release in nearly three years, he was ecstatic to share new music with his fans and the show was brimming with verve.
After an opening performance heavy with rhythm and groove by Cisco Swank, Charlie Burg emerged to a sea of eager fans. As soon as the first chord of “Chicago (Take It or Leave It)” started playing, the crowd began to dance – and they never seemed to stop.
There were no pauses between the next few songs as everyone continued to sing along and sway. After three songs, a moment of stillness came as Charlie Burg began to recite lines from his 2020 single “Lancaster Nights.” He reminisced, “Somewhere in a dream / Or was it a memory?” Before he could even finish the line, the audience howled and chanted the rest of the verse with him. The venue fell quiet again, until the bassline of “Lancaster Nights” shredded the silence and the audience erupted in shouts. Throughout the concert, there was a near constant wave of cheering. The crowd’s continuous chorus of “woos” conveyed just how excited they were to be there.
During “Callback,” Charlie Burg directed the concertgoers to step side-to-side, attesting to the communal atmosphere of the performance. The crowd shouted and shuffled about to the next few songs, completely captivated by his energetic ensemble.
After playing a mix of older releases and new tracks from Infinitely Tall, the band vacated the stage, segueing the show into a stretch of acoustic songs. Although Charlie Burg was the only person on stage, the crowd’s devotion to this artist was evident as they took on the role of performers themselves. The audience sang every word to the next four songs, even harmonizing from time to time. The lighting crew played into this, shining lights onto the listeners shouting the lyrics, proving just how collective this concert was.
Following a poignant performance of “June,” Charlie Burg teased the audience by singing the beginning of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” Although he stopped after the first line, the crowd continued. Charlie Burg asked, “Are we doing this?” and the entire room roared encouragingly. He followed this cover with his 2018 bittersweet ballad “Bookstore Girl,” to which the crowd rendered the harmonies yet again.
To conclude his solo segment, Charlie Burg raised his acoustic guitar in the air to a thunderous applause. It was time to bring the tempo (and the volume) back up. He teased the audience again, asking what song they wanted to hear, only to play over the shouted suggestions with the bassline of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. What ensued was an eclectic mashup of hit songs from the past few decades, ranging from Lorde’s “Ribs” to Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” With each and every song that was played, there was a shared sentiment of surprise among the listeners. The next few songs encapsulated more of an alt-rock sound, pulsing reckless energy through the crowd as they jumped around.
And while the unruly fun everyone was having cannot be ignored, the last three songs were truly the pinnacle of the show. The performance of his most popular song (“I Don’t Wanna Be Okay Without You” released in 2018) and two songs from Infinitely Tall perfectly exemplified Charlie Burg’s poetic storytelling and musical talent.
The chord progression and gritty instrumentality of “Break the Rhythm” paired with candid lyrics explore the journey of redefining the meaning of home as we grow older. In an Instagram post earlier this year, Charlie Burg explained that he wrote this track after graduating college when he felt “isolated and rootless.” The audience was not foreign to this feeling; The venue hosted a young crowd, consisting mostly of college students, many of whom had just recently left the familiarity of their hometowns. Both Charlie Burg and the concertgoers poured their hearts into the words they sang, instilling a warm feeling of understanding throughout the room.
After the last few lines of “I Don’t Wanna Be Okay Without You” were uttered and the last chord of the keys faded into the now quiet room, Charlie Burg announced the final song for the night: “97 Avalon.” This track started with a melodious, percussive sound that laid low as lyrics told the story of a carefree past. But as the song progressed, the venue grew louder, more intense. The crowd was simply stunned with the guitar solo. The song ended, the stage abandoned, but the audience began to chant for an encore. They quickly grew restless, hoping that the electric guitar still ringing out on stage meant there would be one more song; no one wanted the show to end. Eventually, Charlie Burg and his band ran back out on stage and announced they would play one more song, “Dancing Through the Mental Breakdown,” which multiple people had been urging him to play all night. Not a single person was standing still, not a single voice was silent.
The sheer energy of everyone in the room was palpable, and Burg’s stage presence was undeniably vibrant, coming together to create a spectacular experience. In all, the concert beautifully balanced an expression of the reckless and raw feelings of what it means to grow up.