Do you remember that summer, way back in 2006, when you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing Justin Furstenfeld's raspy voice belting out Blue October's biggest hits, “Hate Me” and “Into the Ocean?” The band rode a predictable wave of popularity that swelled with Song of the Summer status and then crashed into the rocks of listener fatigue, mediocrity, and struggles with mental health and addiction.
Well, it turns out, in those 13 years when you (and I) weren't paying attention, the band continued to toil and tour, cranking out an impressive number and diversity of songs that were on full display last night at Bogart's. It's actually the depth and variety of Blue October's catalog that makes them so difficult to describe, and often so difficult to latch onto for many listeners. Sure, they're a decidedly '90s-style alternative rock band. But do you compare them to Matchbox Twenty? Live? Collective Soul? Korn? Gavin DeGraw? The answer is yes – just depends which song you're talking about.
The great news is, whichever version of Blue October speaks to you, their live show does not disappoint. The band opened up to a crowded Bogart's on a chilly November 1st with “Coal Makes Diamonds,” a song that features a catchy piano hook that made it both a great first track on 2016's “Home” and a crowd-pleasing start to the night. They kept the energy up in the beginning minutes with emotional power ballads “Say It,” “Bleed Out,” and “King,” and brought the opening set to a crescendo with fan-favorite / audience sing-along “Into the Ocean.”
After taking a break to express his gratitude, Justin slowed things down for a bit with a few softer songs, led by the title track of the previously-mentioned “Home.” But then it was back to business with some hard-chargers like “Daylight” and “Colors Collide.” Not one to disappoint, the band ended their regular set with “Hate Me” after about 70 minutes of playing.
Blue October's music started in the mid-90s with a mostly dark and angry message, but their latest album “I Hope You're Happy” completes the transition to a message of love and positivity. When the band returned to the stage after a short break last night, they concluded that same arc and really brought the love in the encore. They started out with the unreleased love song “I Will Follow You,” which is sure to be a favorite whenever their next album is released. The song also serves as one more example of how classically-trained violinist Ryan Delahoussaye plays such a key role in the band's successes. They followed that one with “Your Love is Like a Car Crash” and “Fear” before bringing down the house with “I Hope You're Happy.”
Whether you're a die-hard Blue October fan, or a somewhat skeptical music reviewer like myself, its hard to imagine anyone leaving last night's 95-minute show not having a great time. This is a band that absolutely loves what they do, and it shows. My personal favorites were “Bleed Out,” “Daylight,” and “I Hope You're Happy.” Check those tracks out, or better yet, go see these guys live. You won't be disappointed.
Blue October was supported last night by traveling opener New Dialogue. The indie synth pop band has some bona fide hit material in my favorites, “Fake Smile” and “Pilgrims.” I wouldn't be surprised if we start hearing some of our DJs here at INHAILER spinning those tunes soon.