There was a lot of love in the room as Blue October began their 2011 Any Man in America Tour Thursday night in Phoenix, Az at The Foundry on First.
The band is currently on tour in support of their critically acclaimed new release Any Man in America which debuted last month at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, (their highest debut to date). The album has been described by lead singer/ songwriter Justin Furstenfeld as “a documentary without a camera” and chronicles the painful and ugly, (but often sonically beautiful), reality of his recent divorce and, most importantly, his battle for shared and equal custody of his young daughter. Lyrically Furstenfeld is well known for his heart-on-the-sleeve confessionals and his talents as a songwriter shine in his ability to spin anger, hurt and anxiety into eloquent, rock and roll prose.
From the reaction of the packed house on the opening night of the band’s Any Man in America Tour, the company truly loves Blue October’s misery. Which is not to say the event in any way was a downer, on the contrary, at Thursday night’s show, it occurred to me, when Blue October plays it’s not just another rock show, it’s a communal catharsis with a great beat. It’s group therapy with some wicked bass lines, shredding guitars and gut wrenching vocals and, in the end, the session leaves many in the audience with an almost contented sense of release, the kind you sometimes feel after a good cry. If there’s a message it’s; “We’re all in this shit together so fuck it, it’s all going to be O.K.” No doubt, if I were a psychologist I would be turning my patients onto the healing powers of Blue October.
From the first chords of the opening tune, HRSA, a popular track featured on the band’s second album Consent to Treatment, it was clear, the crowd was ready to be healed and Blue October were ready to rock.
With a set list that included songs from almost every album in the group’s 13 year history and also, as would be expected, quite a few from the latest release, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the crowd left unsatisfied. Concert highlights included the popular tunes, “Into the Ocean“, “Say It“, “Dirt Room“, “Picking Up Pieces“, “Should Be Loved“, “James“, “X Amount of Words” and the upbeat pop gem “Jump Rope” (a personal fav of mine). The material featured from the new album lends itself well to live performance and was received with equal enthusiasm by those in attendance. Stand outs included, “The Chills“, “The Worry List” and the haunting new single “The Feel Again (Stay)“.
The establishment of a make shift “tour family” became clear when Chris Phillips, drummer for the extremely impressive openers IAMDYNAMITE , joined the headliners on stage to add some percussion to the song “The Getting Over it Part” and Ashleigh Stone, the first act of the evening, lent her powerful and smokey vocals to “The Follow Through“, both strong tracks from the latest release that also serve the band well live.
As far as musicianship is concerned, Blue October is one of the tightest working today. With the nuanced and confident support of Matt Noveskey’s bass, the driving drum work of Jeremy Furstenfeld, the accomplished guitar talents of Julian Mandrake and Ryan Delahoussaye’s distinctive violin, mandolin and piano, which has always been an integral part of the group’s sound, the players collectively provided an edgy, haunting and exceptional night of rock and roll.
Lead singer Justin Furstenfeld delivered his dramatic and biting vocals with the passion of a seasoned rocker and had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the very beginning. It’s easy to see that the performance is as cathartic for him as it is for those he’s entertaining. The dark, charismatic front man is a master at the rock star game and his instincts as a performer are dead on. I believe Furstenfeld is one of those rare musicians that might easily make the transition into acting should the spirit ever move him. This is not to say I found his performance calculated or contrived in any way, quite the opposite, I actually find him to be one of the most theatrically real and present lead singers currently on the scene and, during Thursday night’s show, there was never a moment when he wasn’t in the moment.
By the time the band delivered their final encore and biggest hit, “Hate Me“, from their platinum selling album Foiled, the energy in the room was palpable and could have been harnessed to power a real air conditioner in Phoenix’s newest concert venue for the next month, something The Foundry may want to consider given the average temperature in Arizona at this time of year is 108, (Seriously guys, I know times are tough but swamp coolers? You might want to rethink that business decision).
Opening act IAMDYNAMITE, the excellent two-man, rock and rhythm export from the Motor City, delivered one of the best sets I’ve seen from an opener in a very long time. The crowd took to the band almost immediately as Christopher Martin (guitar/ vox) and Chris Phillips (drums/ vox) tore into the infectious tunes featured on their debut album SUPERMEGAFANTASTIC, due for release this coming Tuesday (9/13/2011). I have no doubt they’ll be climbing the charts and headlining their own shows in the very near future. Trust me when I tell you, this is one show you don’t want to wander into late, lest you miss one of the most impressive debuts of an up and coming band in recent memory. *(Check back here next Friday for my exclusive interview with the band.)
The evening began with a nice 30 minute set from singer/ songwriter Ashleigh Stone who delivers a strong collection of piano driven pop that works well as a dreamy appetizer to the night’s proceedings. Stone’s set is yet another reason you need to heed the showtime indicated on your ticket and get your ass to the venue promptly.
Blue October’s Any Man in America Tour appropriately continues through the end of….you guessed it, October!
The future dates are as follows:
SAT 9/10/ 2011
House Of Blues – West Hollywood, CA
SUN 9/11/ 2011
House Of Blues – Anaheim, CA
TUE 9/13/ 2011
House Of Blues – San Diego, CA
THU 9/14/ 2011
Knitting Factory – St Reno, NV
FRI 9/16/ 2011
The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA
SAT 17 SEP 2011
Roseland Theater – Portland, OR
SUN 9/18/ 2011
Showbox – Seattle, WA
TUE 9/20/ 2011
The Wilma Theatre – Missoula, MT
WED 9/21/ 2011
Knitting Factory – Spokane, WA
THU 9/22/ 2011
Knitting Factory – Boise, ID
FRI 9/23/ 2011
In The Venue
200 South 600 West Salt Lake City, UT
SUN 9/25/ 2011
Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
WED 9/28/ 2011
Hoyt Sherman Place – Des Moines, IA
THU 9/29/ 2011
Fine Line Music Cafe – Minneapolis, MN
FRI 9/30/ 2011
Crossroads – Kansas City, MO
SAT 10/01/ 2011
The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
SUN 10/02/ 2011
The Blue Note – Columbia, MO
THU 10/06/ 2011
Cains Ballroom – St Tulsa, OK
FRI 10/07/ 2011
Mid-America Center – Council Bluffs, IA
SAT 10/08/ 2011
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
SUN 10/09/ 2011
House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
WED 10/12/ 2011
Royal Oak Music Theatre – Royal Oak, MI
THU 10/13/ 2011
Tower Theatre – Upper Darby, PA
FRI 10/14/ 2011
The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD
SAT 10/15/ 2011
125 East 11th St New York, NY
SUN 10/16/ 2011
Water Street Music Hall – Rochester, NY
MON 10/17/ 2011
House Of Blues – Boston, MA
WED 10/19/ 2011
The Fillmore – Charlotte, NC
THU 10/20/ 2011
The Buckhead Theatre – Atlanta, GA
FRI 10/21/ 2011
House of Blues – New Orleans, LA