Saturday night in Austin and the crisp night air was buzzing with anticipation. Blue October was here at Stubb’s winding down the second leg of their “I Want it Tour” and the fans were ready. Many down front had followed the band for this entire leg – and at least a couple were planning on following them to Europe. Make no mistake, Blue October fans are serious. And if you’ve had the chance to see the band live, then you understand why.
From the first note of “The Still” to the final ringing notes of “Things We Do at Night,” frontman Justin Furstenfeld strutted, danced, crouched, mugged for the cameras and directly interacted with his audience. And by directly I mean jumping off of the stage and onto the pit barricade, getting IN with the fans. He hugged them. He kissed heads. He reached out and grabbed hands. He sang with them. He CONNECTED with them in a way that few performers could ever dream of. Justin appreciates his fans. The joy on his face was unmistakable. This was no schtick.
Every member of Blue October is a force to be reckoned with onstage. The band feeds off of the crowd, and the energy and emotion that they bring to the stage are second to none. Jeremy Furstenfeld held down the rhythm solid and heavy drumming that never let up. Matt Noveskey on bass and Matthew Ostrander on guitar traversed the stage so many times I would almost bet they wore a groove in the concrete. And every time I looked at Ryan Delahoussaye he was playing a different instrument, effortlessly jumping from keyboards to mandolin and to the violin.
Highlights of the evening included the spoken word intro for “Into the Ocean” where Justin held court to a silent Stubb’s audience that exploded into a singing frenzy when the song kicked in and a stirring acoustic version of one of their biggest hits “Hate Me” to start the encore set that brought new meaning to audience participation .
Sure, with a career spanning over 20 years, they are seasoned performers, and Justin certainly knows how to work a crowd. But what makes this band unique is their honesty. With songs and lyrics that emanate from real life experience, Justin sings from his heart. Whether he is screaming lyrical pain or softly letting the melody shine, you feel what he is feeling. You are sucked into the Blue October vortex and happily follow as a willing participant.
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Opening the show was local Austin electronic group Missio. From the first moment that the bearded duo of Matthew Brue and David Butler, along with drummer Jaydon Bean, hit the stage until the last electro-note faded out, the energy was amazing. Jumping and dancing, singing and rapping, these guys brought a party that I don’t think many were expecting. And no one was complaining.
Highlights included Austin Hip Hop artist Zeale joining them for “KDV” with its incessant chant of “Killing Darth Vader with my motherfuckin’ kick drum” and their sleeper hit “Middle Fingers” that had the audience flipping the bird to the skies and reciting the sing-song melody of the tagline. These guys have a fresh sound and a killer live show and it is going to be fun to watch them progress.