Review & Photography by Denise Enriquez
Like this weekend’s much-needed sunshine after a solid week of rainfall in the Alamo City, rock band Blue October’s return to San Antonio was warmly welcomed Sunday evening at the Aztec Theatre. Currently on tour promoting their 9th album, “I Hope You’re Happy”, with New York-based supporting band Longwave, the Texas quintet played a jam-packed 2 hour set to the sold-out crowd.
Consisting of founder Steve Schiltz on vocals, Shannon Ferguson on lead guitar, drummer Jason Molina and newest member bassist Christian Conger – Longwave kicked things off filling the historic venue with it’s edgy guitar-effects infused numbers. On hiatus since their 2008 album, “Secrets Are Sinister”, Longwave announced earlier this year that they were back and new music was to be expected. They didn’t skip a beat and quickly had the already buzzing fans even more charged up with energy and excitement. Near the end of their set, Blue October frontman Justin Furstenfeld ran out to sing alongside longtime friend and co-collaborator Schiltz to the delight of the fired up audience.
During set changes I had a chance to get a good look at the wall-to-wall crowd, comprised mostly of small groups instead of the usual paired off couples, this was definitely an event to be enjoyed in the company of your bros and besties. In the audience made up mostly of Gen X to Millennials – Xennials – I spotted a several groups wearing matching homemade Blue October garments, it was easy to see that their fan base’s love, loyalty, and devotion ran deep.
The lights dimmed again and smoke spilled over the stage out onto the audience and floated up to the packed balcony level. Visible on the luminous blue stage were five tall, wiry, tree-like fixtures, with glowing lights on the end of each “branch.” Aside from the detectable shadows of the massive instrument rigs on multi-leveled risers, the trees appeared to be the only additional accessories that could fit on The Aztec’s humble-sized stage.
As the instrumental intro began to play, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye, guitarist Will Knaak, bassist Matt Noveskey and drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld filed out and set up as a booming voice recited the lyrics to “To Be.” “We asked God to remove our fear and direct our attention / As to what He would have us to be (to be)”. Before concluding with the line, “So walk the walk, talk the talk / And let go, let God (let God)”, singer and songwriter Justin Furstenfeld took his place center stage. As the lights went up, he transitioned into “Daylight”.
And we were off, as Justin, clad in a black long sleeved button down shirt with ripped jeans and combat boots prowled and provocatively strutted the full length of the stage as if cordially welcoming the awaiting congregation to the party. Justin’s love and gratitude for his fans gushed out of him at every interval. He genuinely seemed excited to tell stories about his family, life on the road and new revelations as if sharing with an old friend that he hadn’t seen in a while, eager to catch them up. It seemed he almost had to remind himself to pause and continue captivating the audience with hits like “Into The Ocean” & “I’ll Do Me, You Do You”, allowing the extremely talented violist Ryan Delahoussaye and guitar shredder Will Knaak to put their musical gifts on full display.
At what seemed like the end of a solidly spectacular concert, the band cleared out. No one in the crowd flinched, as if queued to know what to expect. A few minutes later, a calmer Justin returned to the rapture of fans screaming “We love you, Justin”. He serenely explained that he had 7 more songs he wanted to play for them. The audience gleefully cheered. “That means I have to shut up and start playing”, he pointed out. Joined by Delahoussaye on violin, he began an acoustic rendition of “Calling You” and “Hate Me” before the rest of the band returned to complete the promised final songs of the night. By the closing number, “I Hope You’re Happy,” the patrons were all wound up again – singing and clapping along to the uplifting and jubilant song.
Satisfied with the roller coaster ride of emotions and phases of the evening, fans danced out of the venue. Many conversations could be heard about favorite moments and parts of the show and plans to see another Blue October concert were inevitably being made. Luckily, additional dates are still being added and the opportunity to relive the experience will arise.