April 2, 2012
Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun
Blue October’s Sunday night show at Ram’s Head live began with an acoustic set by the band’s lead singerand songwriter Justin Furstenfeld. Striking an Aaron Lewis-esque look in baggy jeans and a baseball cap, Furstenfeld strummed a few open chords and added an electronic drumbeat for portions of the 30-minute set.
Towards the end of the solo set, Furstenfeld proclaimed that he was not, in fact, a guitarist and that his “sausage fingers” made playing a six-string a difficult endeavor. Still, the audience didn’t come to hear a guitar virtuoso put on a clinic. They came to hear Furstenfeld’s lyrics, nearly all of which are melancholy tunes about breakups that rely heavily on words that rhyme with “girl” and “heart.”
Between the solo performance and Blue October’s headlining set, fellow Texas band Girl in a Coma amped up the proceedings with a hard-rocking set that included a bar-room bluesy cover of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records, lead singer/guitarist Nina Diaz’s confident growls and snarls provided a real contrast to the bummed out musings of Furstenfeld.
But if the acoustic opener was Furstenfeld’s opportunity to whimper softly about his heartache, Blue October’s hour and a half set offered a much faster-paced form of therapy. With a touring band that includes a viola/violinist, Blue October’s hour and a half set included six tracks off of 2011’s “Any Man in America.” The album deals with Furstenfeld’s divorce and custody battle, though you wouldn’t know it by the merrily dancing fans who filled most of Ram’s Head on a Sunday night.
Once the headlining set started, Furstenfeld’s soft-spoken persona gave way to a charismatic frontman. Dressed in black and sporting a colorful mohawk, Furstenfeld donned a guitar for more than half of a set, though only strumming it on occasion. Instead, he left the majority of the instrumental work to his four-piece backing band, including his brother Jeremy Furstenfeld on drums.
The band was given a fuller sound by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye’s ability to multitask, handling the violin, keyboards, and backing vocals, often within the same song.
The band’s biggest hits, “Into the Ocean” and “Hate Me,” both from 2006’s “Foiled” LP provided the most audible sing-alongs of the night, and Furstenfeld let the crowd handle some of the duties for the latter.
Still, the fans on hand didn’t come out just to hear a six-year-old single. Most of the audience was familiar with the band’s entire catalog, which the group sped up to a live pace and added plenty of vocal reverb to fortify Furstenfeld’s vowel-heavy choruses.
As he worked every part of the stage, holding the mic with both hands while carrying a guitar strapped to his belly like some kind of defense mechanism, Furstenfeld was the rock and roll everyman, oscillating from reserved talk-singing verses to big choruses and back, all the while looking to his audience through heavily made-up eyes for approval.
And approve they did, cheering and giving slightly misplaced devil horns at appropriate intervals for the duration of the evening.
She’s My Ride Home
Sound of Pulling Heaven Down
Into the Ocean
The Feel Again
For the Love
The Worry List
The Getting Over It Part
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