Show Review: Guster Journeys Through Their Eras at MGM Music Hall

Photography by Sofia Giarrusso (photo 1) & Campbell Parish (photos 2-6)

By Sofia Giarrusso, Staff Writer

Artist: Guster

Venue: MGM Music Hall at Fenway

When: Saturday, March 30th



Saturday night saw an eager crowd at Fenway’s MGM Music Hall in anticipation of the closing show of Guster’s “We Also Have Eras” Tour. Admittedly a spin on Taylor Swift’s successful “Eras Tour,” Guster promised to deliver a comprehensive and chronological look into their over 30-year history as a band, and they did not disappoint. The night was full of singing, cheering and laughs as the band took the crowd through a two-and-a-half-hour setlist of 28 songs. This, intermingled with skits, visual gags, an abundance of costume changes and even drummer Brian Rosenworcel in flight!

Guster has accumulated a strong cult fan base throughout their career, and there is nowhere better than Boston to witness this adoring community. Eric Johnson of Fruit Bats put it best: Boston is “Gustertown, USA.” This fact was apparent as decades of Guster merchandise were sported by fans old and new throughout the crowd. Arriving at the venue, fans were greeting each other and singing tunes in the street as if they’d known each other forever. The music of Guster connected everyone in the crowd in more ways than one, making this show extra sentimental. 

Lead singer Ryan Miller voiced his appreciation for Boston and excitedly exclaimed, “we’re home.” Miller also noted that this sold-out show was the largest gig they’ve played since Radio City Music Hall 20 years prior, calling their work “a gift” in a heartfelt thank you to the audience. 



Opening the show was Fruit Bats, a one-man, indie-folk band fronted by Eric Johnson. Utilizing only a six-string and his voice, Johnson impressed the crowd with his dynamic stylings and agility. His performance filled the 5,000-capacity venue with just as much fervor as if there were a ten-piece band on stage. Despite the complex nature of his songs, Fruit Bats wasn’t afraid to casually interact with the crowd and joke around. When presenting his song “You’re Too Weird,” he admitted that “some people use this song for their wedding… If you listen to the lyrics, you should never use this song for your wedding.” The crowd laughed along with him, then was immediately pulled back into his melodic atmosphere when he started strumming once again. 

As a long-time friend of Guster, Johnson took some time to fittingly reminisce; the show was about “eras,” after all. A short story about Miller sending a “fan email” to Johnson about 20 years ago, sparking their first hangout on Guster’s tour van, garnered admiration from the audience. The history between the bands showed during the halfway mark of Johnson’s set when he  introduced his cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart.” He exclaimed that the fact that “Guster fans love covers” guided his choice to perform the song which he hadn’t covered in many years. Johnson’s appreciation, not only for Guster and their friendship but also for the adoring crowd, set the vibes even higher for the headlining event.  



Finally, it was Guster time. The lights dimmed and a narrator’s voice (of whom was Dave Butler, long-time drum tech and keyboardist of the band) cascaded over the venue. Butler proclaimed that tonight would be a “deep dive into the story of Guster, starting way back in 1991…” Suddenly, the two founding members of Guster, Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner, arrived on stage and arranged themselves in front of a comically small backdrop that mimicked a dorm room at their alma mater, Tufts. They performed a quick skit outlining an abridged version of the band's formation. The lighthearted tone for the night was immediately set as the crowd was instantly charmed by Guster’s characteristic goofiness that many have grown to cherish over their many eras.

After their opening performance of “Parachute,” drummer Brian Rosenworcel ‘joined’ the band. Rosenworcel is known as the “Thunder God” amongst fans (more on that later…) due to his unique approach to percussion by utilizing bongos and oftentimes playing with his hands instead of drumsticks. The group’s performances of “Happy Frappy” and “Airport Song” brought Rocky Horror-esque crowd participation, with fans throwing objects onto the stage. As each song ended and another proceeded, neither the crowd’s nor the band’s energy fell.



Soon after Rosenworcel’s ‘addition,’ Guster dispersed from their centralized location in front of the backdrop into the entirety of the stage. The crowd felt the power of moving from an acoustic to more grandiose set, mimicking how the band’s sound and identity expanded through time. Songs like “Barrel of a Gun” and “Fa Fa” brought along audience participation in perfect synchronicity. One of their most famous songs, “Satellite,” featured softer vocals from Miller and a more relaxed approach from the rest of the band. While all bandmates were on their A-game, drummer Rosenworcel stood out for his percussion solos and nuances that directed the crowd’s dancing. 

Smiles only continued to widen through various skits. They briefed the addition of former member Joe Pisapia as well as when Guster was dropped from Warner Bros. Records (garnering yays and boos, respectively). Right before their 15-minute intermission, Guster pulled off something only they could do; flight. Rosenworcel, tethered to the ceiling, flew upwards in true Godly fashion during a silly song about his “Thunder God” abilities. The audience gazed in amazement, probably collectively thinking, ‘nothing quite like a Guster show.’ 



The second act of the show kicked off with “Do You Love Me” as the band sported their paint-splattered coveralls from the music video. This portion proved to be focused more on the music rather than skits. But that didn’t mean the audience didn’t get their slice of Guster's history. Another comedic song detailed the departure of Joe and the subsequent addition of Luke Reynolds to the band, despite Reynolds playing the part of  ‘Joe’ prior in the night. 

As the years in the band’s timeline moved closer to the present, fans’ vitality remained invigorating. “Long Night” added an angstier edge to the evening as Miller switched from piano and guitar to a juxtaposed xylophone. Immediately following was “Doin’ it By Myself” where Miller hopped into the crowd, igniting a new spark within the venue. Guster continued to impress and immerse the audience in their world filled with rainbow hats, trumpet solos and ‘Great Dave’ montages. 

Playing two songs off of their newest record Ooh La La—“Keep Going” and “Black Balloon”—Guster proved their future is bright. “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” completed the main set with its booming instrumentation and playful lyricism, which left the crowd in a standing ovation. 



To close out the night, Guster joyously returned from offstage for two more songs: “Happier” and “Amsterdam.” The four members of the group sat in front of a wooded backdrop and behind a small faux campfire as they poured their hearts into acoustic versions of the fan favorites. The experience truly felt like a real campfire sing along with everyone’s voices coming together and a shared feeling of letting everything go. The feeling in the venue was palpable and nobody wanted the show to end. But, as all good things must come to an end, Guster took their final bow to enthusiastic applause and roars. 

The band shows no signs of slowing down as their new album Ooh La La is slated for release this May. Guster is sure to be back and entertain Boston again, but in the meantime, we can reflect on and appreciate their many eras through plentiful music and laughs.

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