NEEDTOBREATHE show great promise in Boston

A review of NEEDTOBREATHE at the House of Blues on April 17, 2012

, Staff

It’s been two years since NEEDTOBREATHE’s last headlining tour, but the band was quick to shake off the rust and deliver a spectacular show at the House of Blues on Tuesday night. While they’re touring in support of their new album The Reckoning, the Rinehart brothers and company were sure to include all the right hits that left fans simply out of breath.

The band wasted no time delivering an incredible display of showmanship with “Oohs and Aahs”, the first of a handful of new songs to be performed. Enveloped in darkness, Bear Rinehart murmured the calm opening lyrics as the tension built, and then the band exploded into the chorus; thunderous power chords and a blinding display of lights ripped through the venue and ignited the crowd with a head-banging fervor. Bear shared the spotlight with his brother Bo for a brief duet, the two sons of a South Carolinian preacher framed in an eerie light as they fretted out the haunting melody. By the time the song finally wound down to a wild reception, the band had obliterated any doubts that they lack the energy or riffs to deliver a true arena-rock sound.

Such a showy opener might worry fans that NEEDTOBREATHE has lost touch with its more soulful roots, but the set’s conclusion was as tender as its beginning was dramatic. The band lined up at the front of the stage and killed the speakers as they went full acoustic for “Slumber”. It was an odd experience for those new to this signature of NEEDTOBREATHE concerts, as their unamplified voices couldn’t quite carry to the end of the lofty hall, but the notion of experiencing their music in the barest, truest sense is one that is part of the band’s core. Forget the lights, theatrics, and crowded club; these guys simply love what they play, and it was appropriate to end the night with such a sincere – and not flamboyant – performance.

Between a flashy opening and gentle finale, NEEDTOBREATHE covered the entire spectrum of what their catalogue has to offer – and their four-album collection spans a wide range of genres. Several tracks from The Reckoning suitably summarized what they have in their repertoire. They slowed things down with the soft ballad “A Place Only You Can Go”, whipped out the banjo for the southern-flavored “Devil’s Been Talkin'”, and stepped it up for the night’s highlight with a stellar run-through rocker “Drive All Night”. They filled in the holes with some old fan favorites, offering a taste of their Christian roots with the gospel-influenced “Washed by the Water” and providing some tremendous harmony with an acoustic rendition of “More Time”. The band even threw in the jazzy, keyboard-driven melody of “Girl Named Tennessee”, and delivered Johnny Cash”s “Folsom Prison Blues” with a southern rock overtone. The latter included an extended jam session, offering the spotlight to keyboardist Jason Lovelace and sharp-dressed drummer Joe Stilwell.

NEEDTOBREATHE’s greatest strength is undoubtedly Bear’s vocals. He maintained a perfect balance between articulation and gritty passion in “Lay ‘Em Down” and the aforementioned “Oohs and Aahs”, and hit the softer tone appropriate for the encore’s “Something Beautiful” and “The Reckoning” with delicate mastery.

Fans have to be excited for NEEDTOBREATHE’s future. This is not a band to settle contently into a single niche. The songwriting team of Bear and Bo has created a sound that’s fluent in rock, folk, country and more. And as proved with Tuesday’s performance in Boston, they proved they’ve got the energy to bring the songs to life onstage.

Those who showed up early enough were treated to an opening set of Ben Rector’s pleasant formula of pop-rock infused with a hint of gospel. A rousing cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” got the crowd up and moving, which carried over nicely into the catchy melody and jazzy fillers of “Home”. Rector certainly doesn’t lack for energy; he bounced around so much banging out keyboard solos in “Never Gonna Let You Go” and “The Beat” that the stool beneath him seemed hardly necessary. Rector closed his opening set with “Let the Good Times Roll”, featuring solos from his backing band.

Setlist

1.  Oohs and Aahs
2.  Devil’s Been Talking
3.  Let Us Love
4.  The Outsiders
5.  Washed by the Water
6.  More Time
7.  White Fences
8.  Keep Your Eyes Open
9.  Girl Named Tennessee
10. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)
11. A Place Only You Can Go
12. Lay ‘Em Down
13. Drive All Night
  Encore
14. Something Beautiful
15. The Reckoning
16. Slumber

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