The difference between a band on recording and a band on a stage has always baffled me. Okay, maybe baffled isn’t the right word there but it’s always shocking. There have been times when I fall in love with a band based on their recordings, go see them live, and hate everything about them by the time the show is done. Whether it’s a lack of energy or lack of personality, a live show can ruin even my favorite of bands. It works the other way too. There are so many bands where I walk into their show as one of those “I’m just here to hear that one song” and walk out with a new favorite band. Last night was one of those kind of nights.
Zac Clark opened up the show with an absolutely stunning set of vocals and piano that easily had the entire audience captivated. As a member of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (the Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin fame), Zak is no stranger to the stage but also seemed to linger behind Andrew’s shadow the couple of times that I saw him with the group. It instantly became clear that Zac brought a lot to the table when it came to the band setting and to see and hear that power and beauty in an intimate solo performance was beautiful.
Zac’s yellow tinted glasses and long hair and beard gave him an aura of mystery but his music was truly a glimpse into his soul and life. His songs were honest and full of passion but also cut right to the core if you were listening to the lyrics close enough. His personality shined between songs coming off as a little awkward, a little funny and always full of love with every word spoken. There was something strikingly real about this man. He could have been on stage yodeling and I’m pretty sure I would have still loved every minute of it. Although there were times when both the vocals and piano parts seemed to be in the vein of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Zac made it clear that he is his own musician with his own voice and style and the entire audience was clearly falling for said voice and style. Zac spoke about how this was his first time out on his own in awhile and that’s just trying the wings out to see what will happen but I already know what will happen- magic. Zac Clark deserves your attention and your love immediately.
Headlining the Monday night show in Saint Paul was Augustana. Although vocalist Dan Layus is the only remaining member of this band, as soon as they kicked into their set I had a sense of comfort come over me. Augustana is one of those bands that had that one song that set the world on fire and then, just like that, they seemed to fade into the background. I’ll admit, I’m one of those people that instantly fell in love with their hit song “Boston” and listened to it too much in a short span of time to the point where it got old quick. Although I recognized the talent behind the band in that song and the album ‘All The Stars and Boulevards’ that it came from, Augustana seemed to become just another band in the long list of acts that had a spot in my daily playlist and then quietly faded away. That changed as I watch Dan and his band last night.
Although the sense of beauty laid out on Augustana’s recordings came through loud and clear throughout last night’s performance, it was the amount of energy that had me a bit shocked and totally falling head over heels in love with this band all over again. I would have never considered their music to be energetic and uplifting as I think I cried every time I ever listened to “Boston”, but there was something positively radiant about their songs last night that had me seeing Augustana in a whole new light. The energy that Dan produced from solely his voice was staggering. There’s no denying the beautiful talent in Dan’s voice but the way it mixed with this almost aggressive sense of energy left me with goosebumps and a set that will not soon be forgotten. Much like Zac Clark’s opening set, every word was sang with an undeniable sense of passion and love and you could definitely feel it throughout the twenty song set.
I think I had forgotten just how many songs I really loved from Dan. Although I really only listened to that one debut album and honestly had no clue he had gone on to release three more, I still found myself singing along to songs that I had completely forgotten about over the years. Being introduced to new songs in a live setting is one of my favorite things because then you have a performance that seems tied into the recording. That’s exactly how I feel this morning as I pump through Augustana’s discography trying to catch up on all of the songs I missed out on after letting this band fall to the wayside. It’s amazing that, although I only heard them once last night, some of the unfamiliar songs already have me singing along and I think that’s purely due to the fact that I was absolutely captivated by the performance last night and literally just stood there (probably with my jaw on the ground) while taking in every single word and note.
I honestly didn’t have very high expectations walking into Monday night’s show. I knew I wanted to hear that one song but other than that, I have no clue what I was going to get. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.