Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Guster with Ben Kweller @ Festival Pier in Philly - 7/27/07

I was looking forward to seeing Ben Kweller perform live this year. He did after all win the coveted top album honors in my Best of 2006 countdown last year. But I thought this pairing was supposed to be more like a co-headlining mini-tour with Guster going last and Kweller opening. Kweller only has 3 full studio albums under his best, whereas Guster has 5. But it turned out that Guster would play significantly longer.

I decided to get into Guster after I got tickets to this show and I liked what I heard, so I knew I'd have a good time, even if Kweller played a short set. I've seen Ben Kweller a total of 5 times now, which makes him one of my most-seen artists.

I thought Ben Kweller's set was short and uninteresting, so that was a huge disappointment. It just seemed like he was going through the motions. He only played for about 40 minutes and only 9 songs. I was expecting him to play for at least an hour. He mentioned during the show that he has a 3-night stand at a venue in Brooklyn coming up where he'll be playing each of his three albums in its entirety. So the first night is the Sha Sha show. The 2nd night is the On My Way show. And the 3rd night is the S/T show. But I'm thinking all of those albums only run about 40 minutes, so it'd be a pretty short show. He'd have to mix in other songs during the encore or something. But he said they've been basically learning and re-learning everything again, playing some songs live they never played before. I just wished I was seeing Kweller headline at the TLA or something, rather than opening up outdoors.

Ben Kweller setlist:

1. Walk On Me
2. I Need You Back
3. My Apartment
4. Until I Die
5. Falling
6. This Is War
7. No Reason
8. Sundress
9. Penny On a Train Track

Between the Kweller and Guster sets the people at the venue asked everyone to leave the outside area and go under the tents because a thunderstorm was approaching. We went inside and it rained for like 10 minutes and then stopped. Then we went back out and Guster came on and then it pretty much rained during their entire set, of course raining really hard just as the show was ending and everyone had to leave. Ridiculous. We found a spot under this canopy for the duration.

Guster was actually pretty good. I was impressed. They were kind of a cross between Spoon, the Jayhawks (mainly because the singer's voice reminds me of Tim O'Reagan), and even DMB and Pavement at times. There were lots of Deadheads in the audience too. And surprisingly lots of high school-age kids (wearing Council Rock '06 and Cardinal O'Hara '07 shirts) were in attendance. I wouldn't think a band like this would be that appealing to high school kids. Plus, where would they even find out about them? It's not like Guster is getting airplay anywhere. And they can't be a particularly hip band to like when you are 17. And I'm always surprised by how many "families" go to shows at Festival Pier. You always see a dozen or two moms and dads there with young kids (under 10 years old). I guess they couldn't get babysitters.

I recognized most of the songs Guster played. I'm pretty sure they played all of the following songs in no particular order:

One Man Wrecking Machine
Homecoming King
The New Underground
Keep It Together
Manifest Destiny
The Beginning of the End
What You Wish For
Fa Fa
I Spy
Center of Attention

And I'm pretty sure they played, "Either Way", "Diane" and "Ramona" too.

Surprisingly, they did NOT play "I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today" - a song that Ben Kweller sings lead on. I thought maybe for the encore, they'd have brought Kweller back on stage to sing it.

All in all, Guster kind of salvaged the night. If they had sucked I would have labeled this as one of the worst shows I've ever attended, given Kweller's lackluster set and the weather. Although I thought at the end of the night they dropped the ball by not giving a special thanks to the fans for standing out in the rain for nearly 2 hours. They didn't even acknowledge the perseverance.

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