Blue October is not a band I knew much about until recently. My husband has been a fan for quite some time, so when I heard they were coming to town – and especially because they’d be playing the amazing, intimate Showroom at Talking Stick Resort, I knew this was a show I had to see.
Originally formed in Texas by lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Justin Furstenfeld, his brother Jeremy, and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye, this is a band who has worked hard since releasing their first album, 1998’s The Answer.
Today, with a legion of intensely devoted fans, an incredible history and the creative desire to do more; this band of gifted musicians put on a show as intensely good, incredibly diverse and truly engaging as the fans themselves are devoted.
To really get some of what Blue October is all about, I think it helps to know a little bit about Justin Furstenfeld, an artist whose music seems to be part storytelling, part therapy and part raw emotion; all working together to make great rock songs.
Furstenfeld has battled Bipolar Disorder and anxiety and his honest insights during interviews and revealed in his songs, share a past filled with intense troubles, but also immense triumphs, including two daughters, one named Blue to whom he dedicated the album Any Man in America and Sayde Bell a new baby girl he welcomed in 2012.
His daughters, family, relationships, struggles, thoughts and emotions make up the more than 500 songs Furstenfeld has penned. Most of which are intense, some haunting, others sweet, but certainly most are emotion-filled and full of insight.
A big fan of Blue October, famed Twilight-series author Stephanie Meyer, a Phoenix-area resident has said that the band’s music helped inspire part of the books, no doubt leading Twilight-ers to join the ever-growing ranks of devoted fans of the band.
So armed with a little insight and a lot of curiosity I waited for Blue October to come on stage last night at the Showroom at Talking Stick Resort. As they hit to stage to a raucous thunder of applause, I knew I was in for a great show.
Opening with “What If We Could,” I was struck by-and frankly pleasantly surprised to hear—the sounds of a violin or maybe a mandolin, not 100% sure. It set the stage for me that this would be a different rock show than I thought. Throughout the night Ryan Delahoussaye’s delightfully inspired contributions on various instruments added immensely to the music and show.
Throughout the evening, really cool stage lighting and different ways of lighting band members enhanced the songs, defining each one, setting the stage and creating the mood of the song in a visual way.
As they moved through the set with “Say It,” “Libby,” (whose opening bass jam from Matt Noveskey was killer) and “The Chills,” I was truly amazed at the intense crowd adoration. Normally you go to a show and the band might open with a familiar hit, play some new stuff, maybe a few more known tunes and then ramp up to an ending of big hits where the crowd will finally stand on their feet and cheer. Not at a Blue October Show. These fans stood, danced, sang-along and cheered nonstop thorough the entire 90+ minute set that was peppered with stories, tales and grateful wishes for fans by Furstenfeld. He seemed to truly enjoy being there with the fans he seems to have a kinship with, beyond words.
The set continued with “Everlasting Friend,” “Quiet Mind,” “Chameleon Boy,” and the insanely popular “Into The Ocean,” which literally seemed to have fans in a frenzy.
As I watched, I was struck by how different this band sounds with every song; you can’t really plug them into a single genre. For me this is a big plus and really shows the range and desire this band has to be true to the music.
One of the first songs I’d ever heard by Blue October, (one they did not play last night) was “The Feel Again (Stay).” My husband tried to trick me by saying it was an undiscovered Peter Gabriel song (I am a BIG PG fan). It is amazing how at times Furstenfeld’s voice takes on that quiet sort of grainy quality that really is Peter Gabriel –esque and in the next song his voice is a raw scream and the next something else again. The diversity and spectrum of not only emotion, but literal vocal quality is impressive.
I also have to give mention to the very cool drumming style of Jeremy Furstenfeld. The way he was backlit most of the night, gave fans a silhouette view of him playing and the way his kit is set, how he sits, holds his sticks and his style-I kept thinking of the great Keith Moon. I don’t know enough to say he plays like Moonie, only that the look of it reminded me of the great Who drummer.
Songs “Innerglow,” “18th Floor Balcony,” “Get Over It,” “Dirt Room,” and “James,” filled the end of the set before the huge hit “Hate Me,” and “Worry List” ended the set, all too soon for most.
After a tremendous thunder of applause the band came back to do “You Make Me Smile,” and “Italian Radio.”
All in all, I have to say I was thoroughly entertained and enjoyed this show very much. For regular readers, you know I admit to being a classic rock dinosaur and don’t embrace as many bands outside the genre as I should. I am glad my husband, who is even older than me, can still inspire me to find the good ones like Blue October to appreciate.
I’d be remiss if I did not give thanks to local promoter Danny Zelisko who I had the good fortune to see at the show last night—and of course at the many other shows here in the valley he brings to us. His tireless efforts and dedication to the music and bringing bands like Blue October and so many others to Phoenix makes our city one of the best for live music. Thank you Danny for all you do! And Kudos to Wayne Marcus and his team at The Showroom at Talking Stick Resort for bringing us these shows as well.