The alt-rock heroes brought their “Acoustic Live” tour to Grand Rapids on Saturday, delivering fan-pleasing renditions of songs new and old. Review, photos.
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Returning to Grand Rapids in epic fashion, NEEDTOBREATHE gave a spellbinding performance at Fountain Street Church for an enthralled, sold-out crowd Saturday night.
First up, opener Matt Maeson took the stage with his acoustic guitar, and commanded the room with a powerful voice and compelling songs. The songwriter thrived in the setting, brandishing his personality with raw honesty, prompting a wave of crowd participation.
Next, a two-hour, career-spanning NEEDTOBREATHE set ensued. Billed as an acoustic tour, the South Carolina band may have toted acoustic instruments, yet still rolled into town with two tour buses, a full lighting rig and an impressive six-piece band to craft a true spectacle within the cavernous walls and ornate stained-glass windows of a magical venue.
The band emerged seated on stools at the foot of the stage, their silhouettes outlined in burning white light: Bear Rinehart at lead vocals, Bo Rinehart on guitar, banjo and mandolin, Seth Bolt on bass, Josh Lovelace on keyboards, Ethan Luck on pedal steel and Randall Harris on drums.
At the top of the set, energetic numbers like “Drive All Night” prompted members of the capacity crowd to take to their feet within the first few moments of the show.
The Springsteen-esque tune swelled with soul by way of quickly paced acoustic guitars, organ and a heartbeat of wild drums.
Between songs, frontman Bear Rinehart reminisced about the band’s early days touring in vans and playing The Intersection’s front room.
SHINING HARMONIES AND AUDIENCE-ELEVATING TUNES
The band then launched into a rousing rendition of “Something Beautiful,” a song that helped catapult NEEDTOBREATHE into the limelight when it was released, and even still, evoked a choir of voices from the crowd to sing along.
Things got especially rollicking when a cover of “House of the Rising Sun” showcased Bear Rinehart’s uniquely soulful and powerful voice, filling the room with a roaring tenor.
The group’s most down-home, dance-worthy tune, “Girl Named Tennessee,” prompted a foot-stomping, honky-tonk throwdown that saw most everyone out of their seats and grooving carelessly to the music.
Other highlights came with “Washed By the Water,” a popular gospel-leaning number that once again saw Bear Rinehart unleashing fiery vocals, as well as the banjo-centric “The Outsiders” and a moving rendition of “The Reckoning.”
After a brief intermission, the musicians returned and played a handful of songs entirely unplugged at the front of the stage. Though most of the instruments were barely audible, the group’s vocal harmonies shined brightly.
Entirely transcending the expectations of an acoustic performance, NEEDTOBREATHE proved to be just as energetic, just as entertaining, and just as good as they’ve ever been, electric or otherwise — a testament to the collective’s cohesiveness and musical camaraderies after so many years on the road.
Read more about Needtobreathe in this Local Spins interview with writer Ricky Olmos.
PHOTO GALLERY: NEEDTOBREATHE, Matt Maeson
Photos by Kendra Petersen-Kamp and Ricky Olmos