by Clio Fleese
There’s something special about a strong connection between a band and their hometown fans, and no show could have demonstrated this better than Guster’s show at House of Blues January 19th. The four-piece group includes Ryan Miller, Brian Rosenworcel, Adam Gardner, and Luke Reynolds, and as soon as they came out on stage, they showed that they wanted the audience to have a special experience. They opened, as they often do, with a completely unplugged, zero-mics version of “Jesus on the Radio.” I was concerned about how everyone in the venue would hear them, but thanks to the crowd knowing almost all the words—something the band clearly anticipated—that was a non-issue. It’s a warm song, especially when being sung by a couple thousand delighted fans, and it made for a nice contrast to the snow flurries we’d stood in before entering, as well as a very positive start to what would be an all-around enjoyable show.
The third song of the night was the first off of Guster’s brand new record Look Alive, released the day before their Boston show. “Terrified” is a fun, pick-me-up song, despite the somewhat existential lyrics (“Sometimes I feel like a cog in the machine/ But not forever, nothing is forever/ Soon we’ll all be gobbled by the stars stars stars stars stars stars stars stars”).
Guster also showed off some of their fancy new stage lights, to great effect. During another new song, “Hello Mr. Sun,” the lights gradually started to form a vivid rainbow shining up behind the band, and there was some effectively arresting use of strobes on “Mind Kontrol.”
The band’s lead vocalist, Ryan Miller, along with the rest of the band, helped to cultivate a very light, playful atmosphere, treating the crowd like old friends. After ending “Homecoming King,” the band launched into a few measures of the classic “Chariots of Fire.” Later on, they started singing an impromptu “Giant Brian” song after being offered a, well, giant Brian head from a front row fan. They also shamelessly donned big goofy rainbow hats for the ending of “Hello Mr. Sun” (accompanied by big rainbow stage lighting). If you couldn’t already tell, Guster never stopped throwing in unexpected little pieces of fun for both them and the audience.
Many Guster fans have been with the group for a while, evidenced not only by the audience participation but also by the large organized fan group on Facebook called the Gusterrhoids—a head member was standing behind the boards helping Guster’s management live stream the show. The sense of community I got from the fans’ online presence translated to the live show, with most people attending in groups, and often running into others whom they were very excited to see.
For me, there was a bit of a lull between the halfway point and the encore, but that was probably because I’m not a Guster fan, since most of the crowd was happily singing along to every song, new and old. Amongst all the fun there was a hint of disorganization, not sure if that was due to Ryan having a bit too much fun or an unusual set list, but the encore was a great culmination of the night’s energy, very warm and familiar, a welcome contrast to the blizzard going on outside. Great lighting, great sound, fun fans, and a playful band all made for a great night full of much needed positive energy!