NEEDTOBREATHE | 10.29.16

I respect and enjoy NEEDTOBREATHE for what they are: talented musicians who create wonderful music that comes from their souls.

needtobreathe

w/Mat Kearney, Parachute, & Welshly Arms
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis

NEEDTOBREATHE made a stop in St. Louis with their “Tour de Compdres” tour, a bill that also included Mat Kearney, Parachute, and Welshly Arms. That’s a lot of bands for one ticket ergo the early start time of 7 o’clock sharp. While I am particularly fond of Parachute, I was largely unfamiliar with the rest of the groups on the ticket. Taking a cue from the crowd at the Chaifetz Arena, I could tell these groups all had a distinct following: college girls, Gen X moms, and Bernie Bros…lots of manscaped Bernie Bros. This was going to be an interesting evening.

Welshly Arms is the exact reason I love going to concerts. While you go for the main course, sometimes the appetizer can be surprisingly good. Making their St. Louis debut, the group kicked off their set with the bluesy “Night Prowler.” With my mouth agape, I was instantly hooked on the singer’s inviting vocals. Full of passion and maturity, Sam Getz’s voice gave me the green light to just get lost in the band’s groove. Mix in the fact that their background vocalists, Bri and Jon, were talking me to church with their heavenly vocals, I knew I had found my new favorite band.

As they ripped though other tasty gems such as “Dirty Work” and “Legendary,” my respect for the talented band solidified. Their vibe is what I call a “kick-me-in-the-chest” kind of sound. Edgy and hooky, every song has a power and a passion that just knocked the wind out of me. When they performed an amazing version of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming,” I knew this was a band I want to see in a long form concert version.

After a quick set change, Parachute took the stage. From the first time I heard Will Anderson’s vocals, I was addicted to this band: Their bright, upbeat, clean sound appealed to my pop sensibility. The crowd seemed to agree with me, as they suddenly stopped caring about their smartphones and jumped to their feet. The thing about Anderson’s vocals is they have charisma. He has a unique sound that is charming to hear; there is joy in his voice. Rocking through “Waking Up,” “She Is Love,” and “Can’t Help,” Anderson’s vocals have never sounded better. His falsetto was in particularly good form during the band’s cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Giving him a run for his money was sax player Kit French. The last time Parachute played St. Louis I was surprised by French’s skills, and this time I was even more impressed.

Another aspect to Anderson’s performance is his ability to interact with the crowd. He possesses that unique skill to connect with his fans, which makes his performance even more special. After another couple classic Parachute tracks, the band wrapped up its (much too short) set with the crowd favorite “Didn’t See It Coming.” Leaving on a high note with the crowd wanting more, one thing is for certain: Parachute has a solid fan base in St. Louis.

Mat Kearney and his band took the stage next. His set was high-energy, musically diverse, and quite charming. As he pumped up the crowd with his first few tracks, I quickly picked up on the fact that Kearney is really into hand claps and hopping up and down on one foot. Like Parachute, his vocals are clean and emotionally real. During “One Black Sheep,” he demonstrated his ability to connect to his fans. While the majority of his songs are straightforward pop/rock, he was able to mix in some smalltown Americana with “Down.”

One of the highlights of Kearney’s set was during a mix of “Runway” and a cover of “Where the Streets Have No Name.” While the energy was off the charts, so were the vocals. He demonstrated his mad dance moves during “Heartbeat,” and showcased his unique ability to rap/sing during “Ships in the Night.” I am glad to have seen Kearney live; he made a new fan.

NEEDTOBREATHE offers a musical buffet of rock flavors. They serve up country rock, Southern-fried rock, rockabilly, and Christian rock. The last one would explain why there were so many church vans in the parking lot.

As they kicked off their set with a duo of Southern rockers, “Great Night” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” I instantly fell in love with the steel guitar player. While their guitarist went completely mental on his solo, I got the feeling we were in store for a glorious show.

The backup singers from Welshly Arms were back on the stage, and their vocals added an amazing dimension to the band. Bri and Jon’s vocals and energy are remarkable; they truly are some gifted singers.

During the break between songs, Bear Rinehart interacted with the adoring crowd, claiming he was going to have “freaky fun” with them. While the freak never seemed to emerge, his energy was infectious the entire set. Rinehart embodies a genuine rock ’n’ roll spirit that can’t be manufactured.

Once they launched into “Happiness,” I could feel their Christian rock vibe emerge, as the song has a religious choir type of feel. The crowd went all in and raised many hands, while their eyes were closed receiving the Holy Spirit. With follow-ups “Keep Your Eyes Open” and “Testify,” one could feel the love for the Lord in the air.

Pulling us heathens back into the fold, the band got back to rocking with inspired renditions of “Don’t Bring that Trouble” and “Devil’s Been Talking.” While they know how to perform to a mixed crowd, the band recognizes who makes up the majority of its fans. With divine performances of “Multiplied” and “Mountain Pt. 1,” NEEDTOBREATHE served up some religious realness.

While I may be a nonbeliever, I can respect and enjoy NEEDTOBREATHE for what they are: talented musicians who create wonderful music that comes from their souls. Their positive vibe and addictive energy are undeniable. While this was a long night—three hours!—it was a welcome distraction from all the election shenanigans. I left the Chaifetz Arena recharged and hopeful, and I have all four bands on the bill to thank for that. | Jim Ryan

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