Guster lights up Leede with humor and showmanship

by Brent Reidy | 5/20/02 5:00am

Guster performed for a sold-out crowd in Leede Arena Friday night, combining humor and music for a delightful concert.

Chauncey, a Boston-based band, kicked off the concert. Unfortunately their performance was tired and trite. None of their music was particularly inventive, and it had no distinct flavor. Even the songs they played that weren't covers sounded as if they were. They followed The Beatles' "Day in the Life," with a Barenaked Ladies sounding song, set to overused pop chord formulas.

After a mediocre set, and to the audience's delight, Chauncey left the stage. Finally, at 9 p.m., Guster came out to greet the audience, like saviors arriving to redeem the concert.

Guster launched into their 16-song performance with gusto and vigor. The band's love and passion for music was evident in each number they sang. Pieces ranged in emotion from slow ballads to fast and upbeat tunes. The band never seemed boring -- their sound was bare yet full, and their songs were sincere and touching.

Arguably the greatest part of the concert was front man Ryan Miller's humor. At one point in the show, Miller asked how many non-Dartmouth students were at the show. When a great portion of the audience raised thier hands, he told them: "So apparently there are a lot of parties tonight. You're allowed to go to all of them. Just tell them the Thunder-god sent you. Don't worry, I worked it out with all the parties, and that is the password to get in: 'Thunder-god.'"

When finishing their set, Miller also openly mocked the concept of an encore. He ironically told the audience: "This is our last song. Then will we come back on stage and play three more. After that we will leave the stage and you will go on with your lives, Dartmouth or otherwise No, trust me, life will go on."

For the encore, percussionist Brian Rosenworcel left his wall of drums to sing Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." There is a reason Rosenworcel usually stays behind the drum set: his singing is atrocious. However, that was the desired sound, and the audience received the song with jeers and laughs. It was a fitting end to the concert, showing that Guster is concerned with entertainment, not seriousness.

Guster's vocal layering was the most impressive form of their musicianship. Though singer Miller's voice often cracked and fell flat (probably because of the non-stop touring and incredibly high singing parts), his and Adam Gardner's voices weaved together well.

The use of a percussionist rather than drummer was a welcome change from the pop standard, and it fit Guster's sound well. The band's sound was reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel; Rosenworcel augmented the tunes wonderfully. His drumming was never too assaulting, it was there more to provide rhythmic background for the song than to drive the pieces forward. In addition, his theatrics and wildly wailing arms were welcome, adding energy to the already animated show.

Guster formed in 1993 at Tufts University, and has gained fame ever since by producing three hit records. They are still a college band, though, as shown by Miller's humor. They are a band you wouldn't be surprised to have seen performing at Lone Pine Tavern. Though they have made it big, they have not lost their integrity.

Guster did not wow the audience with virtuosity and their song writing is not phenomenal. But it doesn't matter; their performance was fun, and purely enjoyable. They are showmen who love simply performing for receptive audiences. Guster was a welcome treat, and a great way to start Green Key 2002.