Guster entertains Englert audiences with an evening of hit songs and musical improvisation
Alternative rock band Guster mixed crowd favorites with a humorous musical improvisation at England on Saturday night, and connected with their fans with a personal yet energetic show.
The Englert Theater stage was bathed in blue and purple light as it hosted popular ’90s alternative rock band Guster and comedic emcee Connor Ratliff on Saturday for an evening of audience favorite tunes and musical improvisation. . The group sat in a semicircle on the stage, as if they had gathered around a campfire.
Guster was formed in 1991 and enjoyed commercial success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, they have maintained a large and loyal following across the country – including Iowa City – which surprised the group itself.
“I didn’t know we had so many fans in Iowa,” singer Ryan Miller said at one point during the two-hour concert, causing audiences to laugh.
Throughout the show, the band spent more time interacting with the fans, who were prompted by Ratliff to take the stage between songs to have a quick conversation in order to inspire the topic of Guster’s next improvised track. From beard products to summer time, Guster had a plethora of unusual topics to choose from, and the quick songs they performed on the spot thrilled audiences.
Towards the middle of the show, which the group jokingly referred to as “halftime,” Ratliff gathered several slips of paper that audience members had written messages on. One of the slips had been addressed to drummer Brian Rosenworcel, lamenting that earlier in the day he had waved to Rosenworcel, but Rosenworcel had not seen it. The group erupted into a sad, tender but hilarious ballad of bad timing and missed opportunities.
At the climax of the improvised tune, Rosenworcel asked if the person who waved him over would take the stage. Rosenworcel and the fan stood about five feet apart and waved awkwardly for the duration of the song, throwing the audience into hysteria.
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While the comedic aspects of the show are enjoyable, the band shone the most while playing music from their studio albums. Guster has just released his latest album, Look alive, in January 2019, but the band and the audience were more energetic reliving old hits like “Amsterdam”, a song from the 2003 album Keep it together, which catapulted Guster into mainstream music.
The members of Guster are now over 40, but they still have their signature sound, full of power-pop anthems and catchy hooks. Much of their music feels like a mix of The Shins and a less angsty Weezer, but there are moments in their discography that feature a truly unique style.
An example is “Demons” from the 1997 album Red fly. When guitarist Luke Reynolds started picking out the opening notes of the song’s gritty riff, the theater erupted into cheers that only intensified as Miller showed off his gorgeous falsetto during the chorus.
While the set list is packed with favorites, it wasn’t the songs themselves that made Guster’s performance so memorable. Rather, it was the real way Guster interacted and included their fans throughout the series. The audience was large, but Guster acted as if he was playing an intimate acoustic bar for a group of close friends, creating inner jokes with their fans that were referenced throughout the show and even inviting a lucky man on stage. to sing karaoke to a song of your choice. The result was a wonderfully personal performance that was filled with mutual affection between the band and the fans.