Lifehouse Rocks the House Acoustic and A Capella Numbers Highlight ShowBy Pey-Hua Hwang
Lifehouse had the crowding cheering even before the lights came on at a packed Avalon Ballroom on Wednesday, September 26. The group played a solid set with lots of variations on the songs from their sole released album, as well as a couple of new numbers.
Michelle Branch opened the evening, singing “Sweet Misery” and strumming a blue acoustic guitar. Only eighteen years old, Branch continually expressed surprise at fan adoration and even dedicated one of her songs to one of the fans. She was charmingly personable, saying “Boston’s been my favorite city,” and begging the audience not to tell her hometown Arizona about it. She told the audience she would “teach you guys a little rock 101,” and then delivered with the energy and gusto of “Everywhere.” “Everywhere” stayed within her strongest vocal range and was easiest to hear; the effect of a cold on her voice hindered the higher and lower extremes of her range. She ended her set with “Something to Sing To” and exited the stage calling out, “Thank you guys! You rock!”
The Calling had a slightly harder, less pop/rock feel. The diminutive lead singer had an enormous voice reminiscent of Creed lead singer Scott Stapp’s deep, throaty bass, as well as an amazingly clear falsetto. The band began the set with “Unstoppable,” and didn’t stop rocking until their last song, “Wherever You Will Go.” “Adrienne,” their most intense piece, featured frantic guitar strumming and some memorable guitar and bass solos.
Lifehouse began their set with their most recent radio smash, “Sick Cycle Carousel.” With barely a pause to breathe they launched into the angst-ridden “Cling and Clatter.” Lead guitarist Joerg Kohring traded improvisations with both lead singer/guitarist Jason Wade and bassist Sergio Andrade. Kohring, a newcomer to the band’s usual three-man lineup, could have easily misled a fan into thinking the band had four members instead of three. Wade, wearing a green Boston t-shirt, addressed the crowd with surprisingly assured stage presence for a relatively new band, saying “This is the first time I’ve busted out a vintage Boston t-shirt in Boston...I don’t know if I’m gonna [wear a shirt with the city’s name] in any other city.”
After two more moody electric guitar pieces, “Unknown,” and “Only One,” Lifehouse gave the crowd a taste of a new song from their second album, scheduled for release some time around Christmas 2002. The new song, “Climb,” was a stark departure from the down to earth tones of their first album, No Name Face. A highly polished tune with synthesizer overtones but lacking the melodic complexity of No Name Face, “Climb” is reminiscent of the title track of the movie “That Thing You Do.”
“Somewhere In Between” and “Trying” had the crowd waving lighters in the air and featured Wade on acoustic guitar and drummer Rick Wulstenhulme on the bongos. Wade commented that “Trying,” a song of personal importance to him, was the product of long walks in the woods. The brushes used by Wulstenhulme on the bongos supported Wade’s soul-searching vocals with a hushed, peaceful beat. Kohring played the occasional chord on the guitar or key notes on the mandolin.
The mood stayed mellow for “Breathing,” but the band returned to electric instruments and gradually raised energy levels as they ended the piece with heavy bass reverb. Wade introduced the other members of the band and launched into a piece filled with heavy bass and growling guitar chords. The passage was an unrecognizable introduction to “Hanging By A Moment.” The crowd went into a frenzy and turned the ubiquitous piece into the biggest sing-along of the night.
Riding on the momentum of “Hanging By A Moment,” the band played another new song. The untitled number was exponentially better than the first new song and a likely candidate for a single off the upcoming album, with catchy lyrics like, “I’ve heard a lot and it’s never enough...It keeps me needing you.” After playing fan favorite “Everything,” the band left the stage.
When they returned Wade thanked the audience and sang “Quasimodo,” the only song of the evening on which Wade did not play the guitar. He used the increased mobility to work the crowd and touch the hands of fans in the front row. He seemed unaccustomed to not holding a guitar, holding the microphone in both hands and needing an entire minute to get into the song. His voice strained slightly on some of the higher notes, but it returned to its original fullness as he extended the last line of the piece. Subtle yet commanding, the last song of the night was “Simon.” This piece took advantage of Wade’s husky lower register and recalled the power of the two acoustic pieces of the night.
Several songs highlighted the standalone quality of Wade’s voice. In “Somebody Else’s Song,” he sang a whole verse a capella. He dispelled any lingering doubts of his vocal capacity and ear for musical intonation by singing the introduction to “Somewhere In Between” a capella. Wade didn’t even need to alter his pitch to match the guitar in the chorus.