A great producer can make any song sound like the best thing you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t matter if the lyrics are mindless or if the vocalist can sing. It doesn’t even matter if the band can play their instruments. With the right people and the right technology, any person who dreams of releasing quality music can — in one way or another — do just that, regardless of their talent.
To a certain extent, many concert experiences are the same in 2019. Between backing tracks for vocals and instruments, drum loops, digital bass, and numerous other production tricks, anyone can put on a show that most consumers would believe to be authentic. Wouldn’t you rather a show be great with the help of pre-recorded segments than see someone perform live in the moment and out of tune? Most industry analyst would say yes, that is exactly what ticket buyers want.
The one place where authenticity cannot be fabricated is in acoustic performances. Sometimes billed as ‘unplugged,’ acoustic performances require an artist to put their talent on full display by removing the wizardry that helps much of the music business operate. It’s a vulnerable proposition, but the men of NEEDTOBREATHE are proving they are not afraid with a lengthy nationwide tour that strips their bombastic stage show to bare bones in theaters across the nation.
On February 23, NEEDTOBREATHE’s 2019 Acoustic Live Tour rolled through Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, MI. The venue was an unusual one for the Southern-tinged rock band, and it required their team to squeeze the tour’s production onto a relatively small stage, but it the evening proved to be memorable for everyone present.
Backed by an impressive wall of lights, NEEDTOBREATHE emerged onto the Fountain Street Church stage with instruments in hand and smiles on their faces. The cheers of the sold out crowd bounced off the hundred-year-old walls to create a deafening moment of joy before the band started their first song. They held off on greeting the room until the song’s end, but no one was offended because they were too busy singing along.
The band’s set was split into two parts separated by a brief intermission. Each half of the show featured nearly a dozen songs pulled from the group’s discography, as well as covers of songs, including The Killers’ hit single “Human.” The crowd sang with every song and roared whenever the music stopped. NEEDTOBREATHE reacted with endless messages of thanks, as well as insight into their history as a band. They told of early days spent traveling in a van, as well as the time their van’s battery died because they hooked it up to a Nintendo 64 that someone forgot to shut off before going to sleep.
NEEDTOBREATHE put on a show to remember throughout the night, but the evening hit a high when the group pushed away from their microphones for a two-song run of “Garden” and “Brother.” The crowd sang louder than they had the rest of the night, leaving an impression on the band that they could not hide. Perhaps the acoustics of the church setting played a part, but regardless, there was something undeniably magical about that point in the set. For about ten-minutes, a room with one-thousand (likely more) voices felt like one entity. The community the band has long aspired to create was there, in person, and thriving.
As the crowd dispersed and the winter air did its best to chill their bones, smiles were everywhere you looked. Though unspoken, it was clear those in attendance knew they had just recognized something special, and that they were — at least for a moment — part of something larger than themselves.