[18 July 2013]
PopMatters Events Editor
For a band that has made a living off of anthemic, up-beat rock tunes, it’s incredible how well Anberlin translates their catalogue into acoustic performances. Certainly, hard-hitting tracks like “Feel Good Drag” are meant to be heard at full force, but when the band reimagines numbers like “Alexithymia” or “Self-Starter” so brilliantly, it almost makes you wonder why the band doesn’t always tour this way.
As someone who has seen the Florida five-piece eight times over the course of their now decade-long career, I can attest to the growth and maturity of the band’s live performance. Truthfully, Anberlin has always been a good live band, thanks in part to lead singer Stephen Christian’s captivating stage presence, but the band’s ability to adapt and experiment with their presentation has been magnificent to watch.
It was only a short while ago that the band was headlining large venues and drawing increasingly bigger crowds in the wake of their rock radio breakthrough. Instead of riding that wave into the ground or making repeated appearances on the festival circuit, Anberlin has chosen to spend the past two summers playing acoustic shows in small venues – this most recent tour in support of 2012’s Vital, the band’s heaviest release to date. The mere fact that this seemingly backwards idea is resulting in some of the band’s best performances is a testament to their talents and proof that a band can still succeed by taking chances.
Indeed, it was the tracks from Vital that were most impressive at the band’s performance in Indianapolis. The re-working of furious single “Someone Anyone” was fantastic, while “Innocent” and “Type Three” transitioned beautifully to the acoustic setting. In one of the most surreal moments of the night, one fan who requested “Adelaide” from 2007’s Cities was brought onto the stage to sing the song herself while Stephen Christian went for a stroll. To say that the band has lost any sort of connection with their fan base in the midst of their rise couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Anberlin’s latest acoustic trek has been a welcome sight to fans and a creative opportunity to re-imagine some of the band’s best work. Up-and-coming bands in the scene would be wise to follow Anberlin’s example if the goal is a long career, a loyal fanbase, and an ability display their art well across multiple venues. As for Anberlin, it doesn’t appear that they’ll be fading away any time soon – let’s hope that this isn’t their last acoustic outing.