Something happened to Guster while it was playing plucky alt-pop tunes for the college kids. Guster became a great band. The members have deepened as songwriters, blossomed as players, broadened their aesthetic -- and they've done it without losing their signature sense of humor.
Last week the group rolled down the
On Friday they wore crash helmets and Members Only jackets, which nicely complemented the `` SNL " cowbell bit that came later in the show. It's been 14 years since singer-guitarists Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner and drummer Brian Rosenworcel began soothing the savage breasts at Tufts, but geek power still rules.
The original threesome has recently welcomed a new fourth member, multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapio , to the line up, and was occasionally joined onstage by an impish percussionist named Scooter who looked 12 but is reportedly 19. Guster is touring in support of its fifth album, ``Ganging Up on the Sun," a quietly burnished and beautifully constructed collection whose pleasures are subtler than the jovial quirks of the band's earlier work.
Ominous, winsome ``Lightning Rod," the dense chamber-epic ``Ruby Falls," and ``One Man Wrecking Machine," the album's melancholy first single, sounded still richer and warmer on stage than they do on disc. That fresh depth enlivened old favorites, as well. ``Fa Fa" and ``Barrel of a Gun," ever sweet and charming, were toned and sinewy. It's like the adorable slacker tunes had joined the gym and gotten ripped.
New England singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne played an opening set that was by turns lavish and maudlin, transcendent and frustrating. The artist introduced songs from his forthcoming sophomore album, ``Till the Sun Turns Black," that are very much of a piece with the sincere, soulful shuffles that fill ``Trouble," LaMontagne's much-loved debut.
Plagued by a baffling sound mix, however, the up - tempo material sounded earthy and massive and the ballads simply drowned. The loud chatter didn't help, either, although enthusiastic clusters of devotees insisted on an encore, a rarity for an opening act.
Joan Anderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.