Blue October House of Blues August 21, 2011
At 10:55 p.m. Sunday, an hour and a half into Blue October's sold-out show at House of Blues, the formerly Houston-based fivesome had only played a handful of songs Aftermath recognized. A few dozen fans had congregated outside and were discussing the show, so we joined in. A few of them expressed mild disappointment, but they weren't angry about it.
Like us, they were just confused.
Thus far, the show had borne more of a resemblance to a rap concert. In fact, fewer than 15 minutes previous, a rapper
(Kay Gee, Ray Gee, Jay-Z? We never did hear his name), Ray C [see comments - Ed.], had shared the stage with October singer-songwriter and front man Justin Furstenfeld. While it was an impressive performance for what it was, it caught us off-guard.
For the hour or so in between their strong opening and grand ol' finale, Blue October seemed to flounder, with songs that were too bass-heavy and synthetics-driven for our taste. To be fair, it could have been an issue with the sound; early on, the night was riddled with technical problems that the men of the evening worked through with their heads held high. Regardless, it just didn't feel very rock and roll, and gradually some of the crowd began to filter outside.
The execution itself was solid. Not once did anyone onstage give any hint of a lackluster performance, but the sound just didn't rock. At least, not in the way that "Somebody," "Say It" and so many other of their better-known hits rock.
Instead, it felt like too much musical foreplay. Not until the end of the main set did Aftermath and the others on hand truly get what we came for. While we may have had to wait for it, when it came, it was absolutely perfect.
Before their encore, Blue October ended their set with "The Worry List," which was to that point our favorite song of the evening by far. Heartfelt lyricism accompanied by well-executed musicianship and an intimate feel made a fitting end to the show.
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"Take me off your worry list," Furstenfeld sang. "I'm doing fine, and I've got plenty of friends around." At the mention of friends, he waved his hand over the crowd, who cheered. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic support group, that we promise you.
But the show wasn't over yet.
"Calling You" began the encore, followed by the last song off their new album Any Man In America, "The Follow Through," and "Hate Me," which closed out the evening.
During "Calling You," the entire crowd began singing along, and a couple in the balcony rose to their feet and began to slow-dance. For "The Follow Through," a petite brunette appeared onstage to accompany Furstenfeld; her voice gave him a run for his money as the crowd cheered her on. Finally, "Hate Me" was complete with a recorded message Furstenfeld's mother left him long ago, expressing worry, hope and, perhaps most importantly, love.
His heartfelt gratitude for the crowd, which Furstenfeld expressed after almost every song, was sincere, and the entire crowd could feel it. Meanwhile, Ryan Delahoussaye's showmanship and musicianship were a sight. He played violin, electric mandolin and piano. We couldn't help but think, "Is there anything this guy doesn't play?" and half-expected him to sit down behind the drum kit for a mid-show solo.
Overall Blue October is a solid group, and their all-encompassing theme of working through personal problems, overcoming heartache and hardship and writing off those who really don't matter in your life is one we can firmly stand behind. And while their repertoire last night was a bit too eclectic for our tastes, we'd rather watch a show that's a little too diverse than a one-note performance any day.
Sure, Aftermath would have preferred they play more songs off History for Sale, but we can't fault a band for playing newer material. Bands do, after all, continue making music, and sometimes their sound changes a bit. It isn't a bad thing, just something we haven't quite warmed up to yet.
And something tells us we'll get another chance to hear "Ugly Side" and a few of our old favorites another time. They are originally from Houston after all, so we're guessing they'll be back (besides tonight, that is).
While we've never been Blue October enthusiasts, we'll give credit where it's due. These guys are a talented bunch. And, of course, it helps that they're something of a modern group of hometown heroes. Their newer songs aren't up our alley, but they're on their own label now, and they can do whatever they damn well please these days.
And we expect they'll do just that.
Personal Bias: H-Town, mayne. Love it.
Overheard In the Crowd: "You should go backstage and be like, 'Hey, let me see those pill bottles.'"
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Random Notebook Dump: As we walked into House of Blues, an apparently intoxicated gentleman on the corner of Dallas and Caroline Street looked us straight in the eye and - unprovoked - said, "Please don't beat me up." Silently, we inched past him, hugging the wall, hoping not to disturb him further. Then he proclaimed, "Oh shit, he's got a knife!" What a strange world we live in.
Blue October plays House of Blues again tonight. Tickets are still available.