The first time I saw Guster perform was about four years ago at the Stephen Center at Notre Dame University. I liked their music before I saw the show and loved it after. The onstage energy was amazing and the stories of them doing keg stands in the dorms were even better. I was sold on Guster and wanted more. So when I heard that they would be playing a show at the Aragon for their Keep It Together tour, I just had to be there. I hopped in my rusted out Jeep and braved some wicked Chicago traffic, arriving at the Aragon just in time to miss the opening act and get a beer to curb my hangover before Guster went on (yes, I still had a hangover at 8:45pm, cut me some slack).
After a four-year hiatus from recording, the trio out of Tufts University released their fourth effort, Keep It Together on Reprise this past summer and are finally getting some radio airplay. Tour circuit veterans, it is their energetic live shows and comical stage banter/antics that have won them a strong cult following, one that was ever-present at their show on Friday. Although the show was not sold out, you would have never guessed it by the roar of the crowd. As soon as Guster went on, every person on that ballroom floor moved as close to the stage as possible. As the tunes started to flow, the crowd bounced in unison to Gusterís poppy melodies and sang their melancholy lyrics at the top of their lungs. I mean, I know my bad voice was managing to pipe out those lyrics. The setlist was a good mix, comprised half from songs from their first three records and half from Keep It Together. They played old crowd favorites like, ìThe Airport Song,î ìDemons,î ìHappier,î and ìRainy Dayî (which they said they have played live only twice before) and new tunes like their single, ìAmsterdam,î ìBackyardî and ìDiane.î
Like I said before, Guster is known for their comical onstage banter and antics, and this show was no exception. Before playing ìSo Long,î singer Ryan Miller told the crowd that when they graduated from college they came to Chicago to set forth on their journey to become rockstars and that they were playing this song for all those that were there from the start. The song flowed into the theme from ìChariots of Fire,î and soon thereafter, about ten fat men in tighty whities ran in slow motion across the stage (twice), culminating with the opening act, whose name I sadly donít know, mooning the crowd with her ìI Love Gusterî underroos. The song then ended with no explanation of who the fat, almost naked men were. I did find out later that two of the men were from the Barenaked Ladies, who were playing in Chicago the next day (the others were just fat men that the band thought would look good in tighty whities).
It was percussionist Brian Rosenworcel that really stole the show. His energetic, passionate playing not only looked incredible, but filled the room with astonishing beats. There was a smoke machine in front of his percussion set that gave the illusion that he was playing so hard the drums had lit on fire. And let it be known that even rockstars are not above poking some fun at Chicagoís ìCub Fan.î They dedicated a song from their very first album to that unfortunate fan who may have ruined the Cubbies best shot at the Series for years to come. The show ended with all of Guster around one mic, singing a completely unplugged version of ìJesus On The Radio.î Guster has yet to disappoint me live.