Gig review: JUSTIN FURSTENFELD – Islington Academy Hall, 17 October 2014

Justin Fustenfeld is the main man of US band Blue October, a band I only discovered last year after reviewing their excellent ‘Sway’ album. Tonight it was just Justin and his acoustic guitar, as he played the second of three UK dates on his ‘An Open Book’ tour.

Interestingly signs were up around the venue asking for complete quiet from the audience and reading about his US dates he had a roadie go around the audience kindly reminding people to keep quiet. Why? Well listen to his voice and you could hear a pin drop, like on the opener ‘The Answer’ or ‘Black Orchid’. He has a truly wonderful voice and packs so much emotion into his delivery.

The format of the show saw him take us through his life from the teenage years and his first band, through Blue October’s last album ‘Sway’, an album recorded when he was sober and clean.

Yes Justin has packed a lot into his life, from being on anti-depressants for most of his life and episodes of heavy drinking and drug use. Along the way this cost him his first marriage and being messed around and denied access to his daughter. He had an epiphany, a religious moment, during rehab and since then he has had happiness with a second marriage and second daughter.

He uses the show to regale us with stories from his life, he is a natural raconteur and the two hour show flew by. Good to hear songs off ‘Sway’ like ‘Fear’ and the show stopping version of ‘Not Broken Anymore’, just Justin’s vocals with no mic. A true example of the voice used as a powerful instrument.  Rightly so he received a standing ovation after he had sung and wrung every last note out of himself.

You can’t imagine a British musician doing such an open and frank show as this though. Plenty of humour though, including a running gag over his beard envy of a gent in the front row.  He even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to one lucky fan!

Justin Furstenfeld opened his soul on stage tonight and he was doing this open book tour to apologise to the people who had supported him throughout the past twenty years or so, who he felt he had let down at some stage.

Very moving, with moments of laughter and sadness, this evening proved the power of music. If he tours this solo show again go along as regardless of whether you know his music or not;  you will come away from the show feeling uplifted.

Review by Jason Ritchie

NB The show is based on the CD ‘Songs From An Open Book’ which was released on 10th October. The show featured on here was recorded in his native Texas and the flow of his life story follows the gig review above. The only downside of the CD for me is that you need to skip the spoken word parts after a couple of plays to get to the music. This does lose the feel of the overall show I guess, however the music and his singing are the real stars of this CD.

In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)

Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)

THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)

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