Guster knows how to put on a concert, and it certainly likes to have fun. The band smiles and laughs and adds quirky humor while playing with real ease. The sweetness was on display when the alternative rock band performed a sold out show on Thursday night at Anthology.
Rochester's The Demos kicked off the evening and was loaded down with tunes that got the crowd going early. The quintet continues to impress with its clear, purist vision of CBGB-era rock 'n' roll.
Guster walked onstage to its usual game show theme music and began the set with the B-side "G Major." With cleverly political lyrics, the song was a folksy start for Guster's first concert of 2018. "I Spy" from the landmark album "Lost and Gone Forever" followed it, and later, the band brought in some audience participation for "Airport Song" -- which featured vocals from guitarist Adam Gardner and a dynamic percussion solo by "Thundergod" Brian Rosenworcel.
One of the charms to a Guster concert is that so many people who show up know every word of the band's tunes. Fan favorites, like "Barrel of a Gun" and "Satellite," were massive sing-a-longs. And a strength of the band is the group's reinvention of some of its repertoire in concert, which is a result of its evolution from acoustic trio to quartet to a quintet on tour.
A highlight of the Thursday's show was the lo-fi "Never Coming Down," which incorporated some smart trumpet and trombone interplay between Gardner and Rosenworcel. Likewise "Keep It Together," the final number of the night, added the depth of psychedelic keyboards to the vocals of front man and guitarist Ryan Miller -- who has one of the finest voices in rock.
Miller and Guster can on occasion baffle you with some of their smarty-pants dialogue, but even if you don't always understand the highbrow humor, you'll always find yourself pulling for the band because of its good vibes. Guster might not be the biggest act in rock, but few artists connect with their audience in the way that it does.