Guster & The Colorado Symphony – March 8th – Boettcher Hall

Photos by Ty Hyten

The Scene:  This past Thursday, Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall played host to an exciting collaboration between the regal Colorado Symphony and whimsical Boston Pop-Rock group Guster.  I arrived about 20 minutes prior to show time and waited in line in the lobby of the building.  Surrounding me were flocks of concertgoers between the ages of 25-40 buying tiny bottles of wine and plastic cups of beer.  After making my way into the round concert hall and finding my seat, I was very surprised that more than half of the patrons were my parents age (60+).  As the clock reached the start time of 7:30 the beautiful room was only half full.  Despite most of the fans not getting the memo on the prompt start time, most showed up in their best “business casual” attire, including Guster who later announced they went clothes shopping the morning of and were leaving the tags on. Around 7:35 resident conductor Scott O’Neil welcomed the audience and then introduced Guster.

Guster: Guster opened the show with “What You Call Love” and as they played there was a constant stream of people taking their seats which seemed impolite given the venue and formal nature of the evening.  As Guster worked their way through their next few songs, the overall balance was good but there was a sonic disconnect between the symphony and the band that took away from some of the potential grandeur of the event.  This wasn’t due to poor timing or composition, but solely to the fact that the sound the two groups were putting out wasn’t blending well.  This changed when the band played “Two Points for Honesty.”  The volume and energy of both groups came together and the crowd who had previously just been gently bobbing their heads took to moving around with a bit more excitement.  As the song concluded the cheers were that of your typical rock concert and the entire audience gave a standing ovation.  The band seemed surprised and delighted, leading Ryan Miller to say the he wished that was the last song before the intermission.  They proceeded to play one more to a room that was still only about 80% full, and then many of the younge”r patrons made their way to one the bars or several vendors in the lobby during the break.

The second half began with some stage banter from Miller who at one point said “shit,” followed by “oops, I said the S-word at the symphony!” As the second set got underway band seemed more comfortable as they flashed smiles across the stage.  The audience seemed to become more comfortable at this point as well.

The band and the symphony seemed to complement each other much better during the second set (though a few bewildered glances from Scott O’Neil towards Guster percussionist Brian Rosenworcel suggested that maybe I missed something.)  The beautiful string and  horn sections added fullness and new emotion to many of Guster’s songs that I wasn’t expecting. Hats off to the composer of these pieces, as judging from Guster’s Tweet the symphony and Guster only had one day of practice prior to the show (@guster: Day one rehearsal with the Colorado Symphony. #HOLYFUCKINGSHIT #classicalgas – 8 Mar).

Between songs in the second set Miller shared that this show was a career highlight and he thanked the audience for pooling their resources (tickets ran $37-$87).  The highlight of the second set was “Either Way” which featured an outstanding musical interlude played by the symphony followed by a build up in energy from the band.  After playing their final song, “Come Downstairs and Say Hello,” the band exited and shortly returned to play a stripped down  and mellow and unaplified “Jesus on the Radio.”  While this was a great moment, most of us were surprised when they left the stage immediately after the song ended and the house lights came up.  Sadly it was a very unfitting end to an otherwise great evening.  They even skipped one of their staples, “Airport Song,” during which fans traditionally toss ping pong balls on stage. A single solitary ping pong ball did make its way on stage as the band walked off, perhaps in protest.

The show made for a great evening despite the fact I hadn’t listened to Guster in six years and my musical tastes have changed. The symphony spiced up the old favorites enough for me to really enjoy taking a trip down memory lane to my high school music days.  I applaud The Colorado Symphony for bringing in contemporary acts and exposing new audiences to the amazing work they do.

Set 1: What You Call Love, Rocketship, Satellite, Hercules (To the Rescue), Hang On, Do You Love Me, Ramona, Two at a Time, Two Points for Honesty, Fa Fa

Set 2: Backyard, That’s No Way to Get to Heaven, Architects and Engineers, Rise and Shine, Either Way, Long Way Down, This is How it Feels to Have a Broken Heart, Lightning Rod, Demons, On the Ocean, Come Downstairs and Say Hello

Encore: Jesus On the Radio (Acoustic)

Energy: A-
Sound: B
Musicianship: A
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light Show: N/A

Overall: B+