“It’s Saturday night!” Ryan Miller, lead vocalist of Guster yelled enthusiastically as he came out on stage at Bogart’s in Cincinnati. Then he paused and added, “As I was saying that, I was thinking ‘Oh F#%$, is it Saturday night?’” Indeed it was. On April 2nd, after a rousing opening set by Jukebox the Ghost, who incidentally charmed Cincinnati’s audience not only with their music but a flashback to 1996 by covering Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever” (we’re still wondering how that song came about at band practice), Guster took the stage just a few minutes after 9:00pm.
Guster is comprised of Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel who met at Tufts University. They have been playing together for nearly two decades, and are now joined by Luke Reynolds, a multi-instrumentalist musician who filled the slot of Joe Pisapia who had previously toured with the band for eight years. Reynolds fits the band and their dynamic well. Stage appearances are also made by “Scooter,” Guster’s illustrious drum technician, who is, really, so much more (seriously, he helps the crowd clap during “Architects and Engineers”).
On stage, the word “dynamic” describes the band best. Attending a show is a musical kaleidoscope. The band’s musical abilities are frightening; with each member playing multiple instruments… that sort of talent just isn’t fair for the rest of us. There are other elements to a Guster show though: hilarious exchanges between the band and the crowd, song traditions, such as throwing ping pong balls at the band during “Airport Song,” and fun covers (sometimes accompanied by additional wardrobe accessories) are just some of the things one might experience at a typical show.
The Bogart’s experience on Saturday night did not disappoint. Miller started on piano, as happens quite often, with “Manifest Destiny” leading a loudly singing crowd with the opening verse, “Bones are broken/ and the will is sunk/ How did everything get so f$@#ed up?/ Do you want to change your mind?/You can always change your mind.” From there the band switched instruments, as they will do after nearly every song, to play “This Could All Be Yours” coming from their newest album ‘Easy Wonderful.’ And if the crowd wasn’t already amped by song number two a frenzy would ensue for song number three when Gardner took over lead vocals for the classic “Demons.”
The energetic vibe, both from the crowd and the band, would only increase throughout the night as the group played their 21 song set. The show included several highlights and hi-jinx, which make seeing Guster live something that every music lover should do at least once. One particular highlight came around song eight when Miller pulled out a sheet of paper. He started his conversation with the crowd by saying “Sometimes we get asked to help with marriage proposals, and we just don’t do marriage proposals, and we’re not tonight. But I did get an email from a mom who is trying to help her son out…” To get the words right Miller reads the email from a (Cool? Embarrassing?) mom who asked the band to help her son ask his date to the Senior Prom in a unique manner. And unique this was. The band brought Brian and Kelsey, the prom-goers-to-be, up on stage for their first prom dance. First Miller asked Kelsey if she accepted Brian’s prom proposal, to which she said yes, to the utter delight of the screaming crowd. Then the band had them stay on stage for their first dance while they played an impromptu “Senior Prom Song.” During the course of the song Miller declares, “This is as awkward as I remembered it.” The song also offered some prom night “advice” for the young couple. The crowd ate this up and cheered wildly for Brian and Kelsey as they left the stage.
As the night progressed the band played everything from bongos, drums, percussion, piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, ukulele, bass, banjo, harmonica, and keytar (yes, keytar). The crowd also got to participate in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” song. The band said they would either play “Diane,” “Careful,” or “Homecoming King” based on applause. “Diane” sadly was thrown out early. When it came between “Careful” and “Homecoming King” Miller told the crowd there would be an added incentive if “Homecoming King” was picked – the incentive: a disco outro of “Chariots of Fire.” Miller took the vote asking, “Boring, boring, f#@&ing “Careful” or “Homecoming King/Chariots of Fire?!” No contest. And yes, the “Chariots of Fire” outro to “Homecoming King” was everything you’d imagine it to be, which hopefully includes the phrase, “totally awesome.”
From the “Choose Your Own Adventure” the band went into “Captain,” a song Luke Reynolds tears up in the best possible way. After his ridiculous guitar solo, the crowd shouts their appreciation with the drawn out “Luuuuke!” a la Star Wars. The band played a few more songs including the second to last song prior to encore, “Hang On,” with Gardner on piano. The song segued into Billy Joel’s classic, “My Life” while Miller decided to leave stage and head into the audience. In true Guster fashion, Miller announced their last song, “Okay, we’re gonna play one more song, walk off stage, and come back for an encore.” They ended with “Happier” around 10:41pm and were back on stage at roughly 10:42 – give or take 30 seconds. The encore started with a shout out from the band thanking Skyline Chili prior to playing “Satellite.” Following “Satellite” came “This Is How It Feels to Have a Broken Heart” in which Miller takes the reigns of the keytar and is later adorned with a silver sequined cape – yep, still trying to figure that one out. The show ends close to 11:00pm as the band closed with “Barrel of a Gun” complete with the crowd singing louder than the band with their hands in the air doing a 4,3,2,1 countdown into a thumb/index finger gun. Yes, Guster fans are certainly a lively and interesting bunch.
Guster shows rarely, if ever, disappoint. The show at Bogart’s was no exception. The band is wildly talented, funny, and appreciative of their fans – who they help get tickets without the ridiculous vendor ticketing fees. Oh, and they’re trying to save our planet too – http://www.reverb.org/project/guster/ . Really, what more can you ask for in a band? So do yourself and the environment a favor and go check out this band next time they’re in your town, but only if you’re the type of person who likes to have fun and listen to amazing music. If you’re not, sorry, this band isn’t for you.
Written by: Linda Turk