Posted by: pop-break | December 9, 2009

Concert Review: Guster

brent johnson recalls the night when he saw Guster do something thrilling: play its best album front-to-back …

I trekked to New York’s Beacon Theater recently to see something I wish I saw more of: A band playing an entire album live. It’s apparently becoming a common phenomenon. Bruce Springsteen spent much of this fall playing his early albums in full on stage — and made thousands upon thousands of Jersey girls and boys giddy in the process.

Guster recently went back to their roots by performing their third record, Lost & Gone Forever, in its entirety

But on this night in New York, Guster was recreating its 1999 masterwork Lost And Gone Forever on the album’s 10th anniversary. To which I thought: What a thrilling idea. The record helped define my high school years — an album of tight songwriting, bongos as the main percussion and heartbroken yet sly lyrics. It’s one of those records that stands in time for me — that always sounds like it did when I first heard it, popping it into my CD player while I did sophomore homework on my family’s first HP computer.

Still, I was a tad leery of watching the whole thing live. It seemed wonderful in concept — but I wondered if it would quickly become dull once the set began. Because one of the things I love about concerts is the unpredictability. For me, the biggest rush of adrenaline at a concert is the unraveling of a setlist. That — not just the jamming — is what makes a Dave Matthews Band concert so mesmerizing. There’s always surprise.

When you play a record in full, there’s no surprise at all. But here’s what I learned by watching Guster play Lost And Gone Forever: You get comfort instead. The thrill of unpredictability is replaced by the familiarity of singing along continuously because you know what comes next.

There’s also the thrill of hearing how these songs sound live 10 years later. The Boston boys turned ‘All The Way Up To Heaven’ into a disco-ball-aided sing-along with a choir of young girls whistling. And there was a chill that ran through my body hearing a rare song like ‘Rainy Day,’ all minor chords and eery vocals, ending the set.

So I welcome the phenomenon of playing full albums live. Especially if they remind me of the 1990s. Other records from the era I’d like to see get this treatment?

Before These Crowded Streets by Dave Matthews Band

Bringing Down The Horse by The Wallflowers

Blue by Third Eye Blind (yes, not their debut album — that one is more fun, but Blue is more textured and would make a more interesting show)

P.S. — Back when it was still a nice, music-playing alternative to its mother station, MTV2 used to broadcast as show where bands covered their favorite records in entirety. What a smashing idea — and a show that should be resurrected.

One great episode: Guster, a band of pleasant angst alt-pop, covering Violent Femmes’ 1982 self-titled debut , an album of pent-up angst alt-rock.



  1. Did he ever find his way back to NJ. I’m so happy he’s living in the 90’s.

    PS What’s Guster?

  2. […] I was at the show at the Beacon Theater in New York last year where you played your classic album Lost And Gone Forever in its entirety. And it was fantastic to hear it all live — especially […]

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