After seeing the South Carolina foursome open for Jars Of Clay in Philadelphia back in 2007, I had become a believer in NEEDTOBREATHE. The southern rock band seemed to find themselves with their sophomore album The Heat, and with their 2009 release, The Outsiders, the guys have cemented themselves as a band to watch and a musical 'gift that keeps on giving.' With each live performance and each headlining tour, this quartet just seems to get better and better. We caught their Spring "Won't Turn Back Tour" earlier this year, so not a whole lot of changes were expected for their fall "Young And Far From Home Tour"... but, as usual, these guys delivered a fair share of surprises.
It was a cold November night as concert goers in the city of Philadelphia waited to be admitted into the South Street hot spot. Sometime after 7pm, the doors were opened, but it wasn't until around 8pm that opening band The Daylights took the stage. I'd actually never heard of the California rock trio before, but upon looking into them after their show, I was surprised to find that they've been around at least since 2007 and have recently toured with the former CCM artist Katy Perry (anyone remember her as Katy Hudson in 2001?). The Jackson brothers and their friend from Denmark, Svend, comprised this indie rock act that offered a sound that seemed like a mix of NEEDTOBREATHE and The Listening. Their opening set was enjoyable (as opposed to some tours when the opening acts can be anything but) and they performed a handful of songs before handing the stage over to the headlining act. It's actually surprising that the tour only featured two performers, but the plus side to this is that fans not only don't have to wait quite as long to hear who they came to see, but it may even allow for the main event to play longer.
After The Daylights left the stage, there was an intermission which allowed for all of their gear to be cleared in preparation for NEEDTOBREATHE. The Daylights had performed in front of a large theatrical curtain that was part of the venue's stage, and when NTB were ready to perform, the curtain slowly opened to reveal the South Carolina four. Bathing the stage and audience in blinding backdrop spotlights, NEEDTOBREATHE opened with the "Outro" of the title track from their latest project, The Outsiders. It was a nice touch for opening their set, and the band relished in the moment of transitioning into the new favorite, "Prisoner." The guys have always seemed to be somewhat of a jam band, and it's clear from watching them on stage that they love what they do - and they love to just let the music go wherever it wills to. To my surprise, they returned to their national debut record Daylight next for their song "Quit" (which would also be the only song off their debut that they would play this night) before moving to The Heat for the acoustic song "More Time" (which found guitarist Bo Rhinehart standing on the speaker tower for the song's fun bluegrass section). The infectious and dance-friendly "Girl Named Tennessee" followed, with front man Bear Rhinehart then taking a moment to explain that this is the band's final tour for The Outsiders and that they are beginning to work on their next album. And after asking the audience if it's okay if they play a new song for them, the band launched into "Devil's Been Talkin'," a new tune that sounded great live and looks to follow in the footsteps of the sound they were exploring on The Outsiders.
The guys then went into a bit of a mellow interlude with the romantic ballad "Stones Under Rushing Water" and their tribute to the Rhineharts' pastor father in the set highlight "Washed By The Water." Bear sat at a piano set at the back of the stage for this one, and remained there when they played another brand new song, titled "Tyrant King," from their upcoming album. Bear returned to center stage then for the anthemic "Let Us Love," before playing their radio hits "Something Beautiful" and "Lay 'Em Down." For the latter, the guys broke into a jam before the song's end and after their closing song, "We Could Run Away," they did the same as well, extending both tracks' length quite a bit. The lights went out, the curtain closed, and the band left the stage. The audience kept cheering for "one more song" and after a few moments, the foursome, with the addition of their tour keyboardist Toby Friesen, formerly of Jackson Waters. Toby was previously seen on stage as a tech for NTB, but he has since replaced NTB's former touring keyboardist David Leonard, who also used to front Jackson Waters. The five guys huddled in the center of the stage and, without the help of any mics, monitors or speakers, and peformed "Valley Of Tomorrow" entirely acoustic. They've previously done this with "Washed By The Water" and it has always been a memorable live moment. Doing it with "Valley Of Tomorrow" was a really nice touch. Upon the song's end, the band members returned to their posts for a rousing plugged-in rendition of "The Outsiders," ending their set in another rousing jam session.
NEEDTOBREATHE has undoubtedly grown and matured into one of those bands that you just don't want to miss when they come to your area. It's a guaranteed fantastic night of live music and incredible musicianship that seems to just keep getting better and better. And after teasing audiences on this tour with new material, we cannot wait to see what these guys have in store for their fourth album release...-- John DiBiase, 11/10/10
NEEDTOBREATHE Set List
01. The Outsiders "Outro"
04. More Time
05. Girl Named Tennessee
06. Devil's Been Talkin'
07. Stones Under Rushing Water
08. Washed By The Water
09. Tyrant King
10. Let Us Love
11. Something Beautiful
12. Lay 'Em Down
13. We Could Run Away
14. Valley Of Tomorrow
15. The Outsiders
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