I have been at Irving Plaza a lot in the last couple weeks. A couple days ago I was there once again for Anberlin's Tour de Vital. Anberlin has been a favorite of mine for a long time, so I was excited to see and shoot this show, despite the sometimes troubling lighting conditions at Irving. They brought along Paper Route and All Get Out for support.
Hailing from South Carolina, All Get Out took the stage first. They did a fantastic job of getting everyone jumping around, even though I am sure a lot of people at the show were seeing them for the first time. Rousing vocals, glossy and also fuzzy around the edges, their songs are made to be sang along with.
Nashville's own Paper Route were next to take the stage. It felt like their songs were often built around synthesizers making it hard to not dance a bit. Bands like the fantastic Imagine Dragons came to mind when I saw them play. Not that they were copying them by any means, Paper Route has a sound all their own. They were a lot of energy packed onto a stage crammed with equipment. At one point singer J.T. Daly climbed onto a drum riser, that seemed shaky at best, and absolutely rocked out with their drummer matching him beat for beat. Definitely fun to watch.
At 9:30 Anberlin took the stage. One by one they came out, all smiles and waves, and the screaming got louder and louder. By the time singer Stephen Christian came out with his microphone stuck in his back pocket, NYC was going absolutely insane. The band wasted no time whipping everyone into a frenzy launching into The Resistance. That song is perfect to sing and clap along too, and the audience wasted no time doing both. It was clear that it wasn't going to be a mellow night at Irving Plaza.
The energy was kept high with the next two songs; the crowd favorite Paperthin Hymn and We Owe This to Ourselves. It isn't every day that a band sounds even better live than they do on your headphones, but Anberlin is certainly that band. If you have only heard their slower songs or know them as a "Christian Rock" band, you might dismiss them. But the energy they bring to the stage cannot be ignored.
Hailing from Fla, Anberlin is led by the incredible Stephen Christian with his soaring vocals. The fantastic Joesph Milligan is on lead guitar, with Christian McAlhaney on rythm guitar, backing vocals and headbangs. I know headbanging isn't something typically mentioned, but when you do it as well as McAlhaney does, it should mentioned. And of course keeping everything moving forward is Deon Rexroat on bass and synthesizers, and Nathan Young on drums.
The 75 minute set was filled with hits. Time and time again Stephen took advantage of the close crowd by grabbing hands in the front row. At one point towards the end of the set he jumped into the crowd and let them carry him away for a bit. Songs like Someone, Anyone, Never Take Friendship Personal, Feel Good Drag and Self-Starter kept the energy peaked. Even the slower songs like I'd Like to Die and Unwinding Cable Car had everyone in a frenzy. Christian mentioned that the latter was one of their favorite acoustic songs because of how much everyone loves it. NYC showed that to be true by singing along to every word. There were a bunch of times during the show where the singer would smile, close his eyes, and let the crowd carry his words away.
At a time when radio plays the same 7 songs over and over, Anberlin has a catalog full of songs that sound like they should be on the radio. Their songs sound like you should have the windows rolled down doing 80, singing at the top of your lungs. It is a shame that they are not bigger than they are. On Wednesday night, they came into NYC and did what they do best- they played 16 songs that completely wrap themselves around you. Songs that make you forget everything else. That is all you can ever ask for music to do for you.
They closed out with a treat for us. Anberlin played one of my personal favorites, and a song they haven't been playing much in recent years. They closed out with (Fin*). At almost 9 minutes, this song is everything that is incredible about Anberlin. Incredible lyrics, beautiful melody, soaring vocals, and music that builds and builds until it explodes. It is one of my favorite songs, ever.
The Tour de Vital continues as we speak. If you haven't checked them out yet you still have some time left. I suggest you leave any notions you might have about what they sound like, and go see them. I promise you will be blown away.