NEEDTOBREATHE Marquee Theatre 5/5/14
NEEDTOBREATHE is a band of strong suits -- that's not to say that they don't know how to put on a lively show (they do), that they can't play their instruments (they can), or that they can't draw a crowd (they did). Rather, they're a band that may not be the flashiest, nor the most technically proficient, but for what the South Carolina rock act does, they do very well.
They're also a band that's hard to pigeonhole. While they're not an indie act, nor country or blues, they dip these toes in those waters often. Whatever you label them, they're distinctly Southern, however, in both their musical tonality and stage banter. At the Marquee Theatre, a venue that doesn't necessarily lend well to vocally-driven acts such as NEEDTOBREATHE, vocalist Bear Rinehart put his massive chops to use, filling the auditorium with his trademark howl that's the defining factor the his band's sound.
Early set standouts came with the raucous "Oh, Carolina," a rollicking footstomper of a country song that's made by guitarist Bo Rinehart's bluesy fill licks. As the second song of the set, and one of the most vocally impressive throughout the night, it started the evening out on a high point that was never quite matched. "Drive All Night," one of NEEDTOBREATHE's bigger tracks, was just as well received by the audience as any other hit, but the song's wanderlust-inspired energy fails to translate from the record to the stage.
It's requisite to touch on NEEDTOBREATHE's Christian roots as well. The crowd, a mixture of shrill-voiced teenyboppers hell-bent on proclaiming their love for the Rineharts and parent-aged patrons, all seemed to be in on the band's gospel. "The Difference Maker," a song that's as overt in its presentation as NEEDTOBREATHE gets, runs around the refrain of "'Cause I am the difference maker / I am the only one that speaks to him / I am the friendliest of friends of God," and elicits a crowd reaction that's just at home in the Marquee as it would be in church. It's a revivalist feeling at times, but then there's also the confessional.
Critic's Notebook: Midway through their set, Bear Rinehart takes the time to offer the crowd a bit of insight each night. Rather than geographically-geared banter, he opted to talk story, telling the audience about his falling out with Bo, the band's near-breakup and their reconciliation during the making of Rivers In The Wasteland. It's atypical of most bands to let their guard down on that level, much less reveal something that they haven't touched on to a great public degree yet, and was a refreshing moment before jumping into "Wasteland."
This isn't to say that you must align yourself with any group to enjoy NEEDTOBREATHE, or that one might even feel out of place at their show -- there are many facets to their set, from effective and engaging lighting to their well-structured and dynamic songwriting, that anyone can enjoy. There's also nothing edgy there either, as they're made to play all-ages shows such as this. While it's hard to add teeth or grit to a band as well-polished as NEEDTOBREATHE, they don't really need such accouterments to be effective - they already seem to know exactly who they're playing to.
Last Night: NEEDTOBREATHE at the Marquee Theatre.
The Crowd: There was a massive disparity in age -- you were either in your golden forties or your parents drove you to the show because you can't do it yourself yet -- but many audience members had definitely seen the band before. These guys breed diehards.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Thank you, God." Hallelujah.
Personal Bias: Bear switched guitars mid-song to play slide, then played slide well. Dude definitely made me a believer.
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