After bus troubles that canceled their first stop on the ‘I Hope You’re Happy Tour,’ Blue October held nothing back at the show Sept. 29 at the Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Leadsinger Justin Furstenfeld addressed the crowd of 1400 people multiple times about how excited he was, and what a great time he was having. He even joked after the final song that he wished he could play more, but regretted to say he couldn’t. Except he could. And he did.
The 20-song set included “Into the Ocean” pretty early on, and new songs including “I’ll Do Me and You Do You,” in between old favorites like 2003’s “Clumsy Card House.” The encore included an acoustic, stripped-down, sentimental version of “Calling You,” and a happy dance-break during the ’80s-inspired title track “I Hope You’re Happy” from the new record.
Furstenfeld played the acoustic guitar for an emotional and overwhelming version of “Hate Me.” It was a heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of the otherwise loud radio version we’re used to. For a song that’s undoubtedly been played thousands of times since it’s release 12 years ago, “Hate Me” could have inevitably become a hatred of Furstenfeld’s. It certainly doesn’t appear that way — nor does it sound old, worn-out, or overdone. Hearing isolated, intimate vocals from Furstenfeld, paired with the swelling ambiance of Ryan Delahoussaye’s violin, the ambiance was totally transformed. Furstenfeld took time for each note, focusing on the delivery of each lyric — which felt so powerful in the live setting. You could feel every note as they escaped from his lips. If anyone ever questions the merit of a rock band frontman’s vocal ability when the band is removed, you’ve never seen Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October.
Having never seen them live before, I’ve got to assume Blue October is like a fine red wine — and only gets better with age. I can’t possibly imagine a better live performance from the Texas alternative rock band. Their live show proves they’ve got that intangible, inspiring talent that often times came from the darkest moments — the band continues to rise above. With echoed notes still seemingly hanging in the rafters, and swelling violins, Blue October soars.