Review: Anberlin delivers a stripped-down reading at State Theatre

A look back at the July 13 show.

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click to enlarge Review: Anberlin delivers a stripped-down reading at State Theatre - Daniel Cura
Daniel Cura
Review: Anberlin delivers a stripped-down reading at State Theatre

Hometown rockers Anberlin made their return to the Bay area this past weekend for the final stop of their “Anberlin Lite” tour. I claimed their February performance in Orlando was the best I'd seen from this group, with the tightest set and musicianship. While I still back that claim, Anberlin's State Theatre show in St. Pete last Saturday was truly special, and quite possibly my favorite. The “Lite” tour was a continuation of the short run of acoustic shows Anberlin delivered last summer at less frequented cities and venues. This year’s tour was longer, and landed at more typical locales that included the finale at home last weekend.

St. Pete's stop saw support from local musicians, including Polyenso (formerly known as Oceana), which opened up the night and set the mood with their distinctive and very welcoming sound, their steady groove layering straightforward instruments with sounds on synths, drum pads and trumpets.

Next came a special performance from Aaron Marsh, a big treat as Marsh's former band Copeland started up around the same time in the same area as Anberlin, leading to a friendship between the bands and a crossover in the loyal fanbases. Copeland disbanded in 2010 and this was Marsh’s first time on the stage since then. He played solo, switching between piano and acoustic guitar in a fun, lighthearted set that included a self-aware Marsh joking around and making comments like, “I have a side project that nobody likes. Everybody has one of those” and “I thought about playing all new stuff or cover songs and I was like, ‘Ah they just wanna hear Copeland songs.’ I know how it goes. I'm right there with you, kind of.”

“How’s home doing?” asked Anberlin frontman Stephen Christian as he and his smiling, suit-wearing bandmates took the modestly lit stage at the night's climax. I've seen Anberlin play acoustically many times before, but this night felt different. The group didn’t just strip down their songs, they completely re-worked most of them and re-wrote many of the arrangements. There were still electric guitars and a full drum kit, but they were used cleanly to compliment the “toned down” vibe that went along with the acoustic guitars, keyboards and various other instruments the musicians bounced between playing. Each member of the quintet (included the added keyboardist for this tour) were as on point as I’ve ever seen them, yet there was rawness to the performance, a feeling of improvisation that accommodated the tightness. Live, Christian doesn't seem to sing any of the songs the same way twice, and his delivery during this particular performance felt extra special. It was clear each of the musicians were truly feeling the music.

The performance was paired with much chatter and banter between the band and fans that made the warm amicable feeling in the room swell ever more. One conversation even led to a request and Christian pulled the fan on stage to sing the old Anberlin tune with him. The rest of the setlist touched on a nice mix of fan favorites and earlier fare, including some B-sides and unreleased cuts not typically played live. All in all, Anberlin’s stripped-down set felt transcendent, and they'll be hard-pressed to top it on their next run (though I’m sure they will)...

Setlist:
Take Me As You Found Me
Inevitable
Type Three
(The Symphony Of) Blasé
The Haunting
Unstable
Alexithymia
Someone Anyone
Feel Good Drag
Breaking
Self-Starter
Innocent
The Unwinding Cable Car
Impossible

Encore:
Dismantle. Repair.
Paperthin Hymn

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