Concert review: Guster at The Orange Peel
With thousands of Asheville area residents huddled around televisions awaiting election results from local and state races, Guster provided a balm for the caustic political environment with a peak-form performance on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at The Orange Peel.
The band played memorable shows at the venue in 2011 and 2015, but the combination of a decidedly upbeat setlist and perhaps a renewed spirit in the wake of recording their forthcoming album Look Alive resulted in the best concert this reviewer has seen from them thus far.
Buoyed by a not-quite-capacity crowd eager to sing along to their favorite Guster tunes, the core quartet and extra percussionist on drum kit kept the energy high from the anthemic chorus of opener “Long Night,” one of the night’s few slower-paced selections that nonetheless kept attendees rapt.
With the ever-bubbly Ryan Miller (vocals/guitar/keys/xylophone) front and center in a Pac-Man blazer and trousers, he and bandmates Brian Rosenworcel (percussion), Luke Reynolds (guitar/vocals) and Adam Gardner (bass/guitar/keys/vocals) spun through a welcome assortment from their back catalog, including the jubilant return of Easy Wonderful opener “Architects and Engineers,” which wasn’t played on their last Asheville stop — nor, for what it’s worth, at their Feb. 13, 2016 show at The Fillmore in San Francisco.
Likewise encouraging was that Look Alive tracks “Mind Kontrol,” “Hard Times,” and “Don’t Go” fit in nicely with the familiar songs, regardless of Miller’s cheeky faux audience comment that the band had gone “dark” with the new material.
Keeping up his reputation as a master banterer, Miller complimented the lighting tech, a vast improvement over the usual work that he said was like “cats jumping on the board.” Also in the mix was praise for Asheville’s culinary scene, including the rest of the band’s successful ordering at Salsas, and Miller’s shrimp and grits dish at an unnamed popular breakfast/brunch eatery that may or may not have been Biscuit Head.
Seemingly enjoying the experience as much as the crowd, Miller sent Reynolds and Rosenworcel away — complete with requested boos from the audience — for an “encore” performance of “Parachute” with just him and Gardner, then promptly welcomed back the rest of the band with raucous cheers and applause for the fittingly hopeful “Hang On.”
Die-hard fans then waited around the edge of the stage for the usual “Jesus on the Radio” acoustic finale that never arrived, despite its appearance on the setlists that the house crew tossed out to the remaining few. Even without the gorgeous banjo singalong, the night felt complete — essentially a dream Guster show and one of the few times when those gathered together truly didn’t want the evening to end.
Center of Attention
Doin’ It By Myself
Architects and Engineers
Come Downstairs and Say Hello
Do You Love Me
Barrel of a Gun
On the Ocean
Never Coming Down
Improv song: Gay Paree
Red Oyster Cult
(Photo by Edwin Arnaudin)