Augustana and The Maine 5/28 House of Blues Boston Review

By Laura McWhorter

Getting dressed for this concert was a nightmare. The show was The Maine and Augustana and the lineup was a bit mismatched. Each band caters to a different crowd and while both are fantastic in their own right it was an odd pairing for sure. Augustana touring with The Maine is like having Justin Bieber open up for Toby Keith. Do I wear my purple hightops or do I wear my cowboy hat? Okay. Maybe not THAT drastic but you get the idea.

My fictional wardrobe aside, either way there was some good music to be had. Whether you were there for The Maine or for Augustana you were in for a good time – and a family friendly one at that since the show wrapped before 9:30.

While I usually find it hard to be rowdy before 8:00 p.m., The Maine and their upbeat sound stepped up to the challenge and got everyone on their feet within the first few notes of a new track named ‘Good Love’. The girls were in a perpetual state of swoon as the Arizona boys played through their lovey-dovey catalogue of pop-punk hits like ‘Right Girl’, ‘Listen to Your Heart’ and ‘Into Your Arms’. They played three new songs but the most promising of the lot was a raw, gritty, slower track called ‘Sink or Swim’ or ‘Ice Cave’ or something – the internets were not specific and neither was singer, John O’ Callaghan. The band closed with ‘Girls Do What They Want’ and ‘Growing Up’ (which is appropriate since their half of the audience were driven there by their parents).

After a stage change that would make a NASCAR pit crew jealous, Augustana came out. When I made my move up to Boston, there was one song that was repeated across all six mix CDs my friends made me for the drive. I’ll give you ONE guess what it was. That’s right. Those opening piano notes are some of my favorite sounds in music and judging by the insanity that ensued last night…I’m not alone. They opened with the New England favorite to get the crowd going and kept it up for the rest of the set. You’d think that hearing ‘Boston’ in Boston would be hard to top but these guys are good at what they do and the juxtaposition of their mature, practiced sound against The Maine was enough to make people stop and take notice.

While their setlist spanned the band’s history, it mostly focused on newer tracks from ‘Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt’ and ‘Augustana’. Newest single, ‘Steal Your Heart’ and crowd favorite ‘Sweet and Low’ came next. Dan Layus’s voice is something to behold. You can listen to their albums all you want but you’re never going to really feel it until you see this live. He sings like he’s an evangelist preacher and we’re his congregation. Put this show on mute and you’d think you were watching a revival. The harmonica on ‘Stars and Boulevards’ and ‘Hurricane’ added another layer of grit to the tunes (as if they needed it) and speaking of grit…if you’re only familiar with their singles, check out ‘Dust’. I’d never heard this track before and I was floored. It’s a much darker song and not something I was expecting. If forced to narrow down the highlights of the set I’d have to pick ‘Fire’ and ‘I Still Ain’t Over You’. They mixed up ‘Still Ain’t…’ a bit and it was much more folksy and real than the album version. It was down right gorgeous and I’ve actually been listening to a YouTube link of the live version all morning as I write this.

I would have loved a bit more interaction from them. For the most part it was just them playing through the set – quickly (they were on the bus before 9:15). Layus acknowledged this bit during the encore saying, “Hello! I know this is a weird point to be introducing ourselves but we’re Augustana…’ Like I said, they played well and definitely gave the fans their all but contrary to their smash hit, it just seemed like they would’ve rather been anywhere but…well…Boston.

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