Anberlin closed out Saturday night on Main Stage this year, and delivered one of the most face-rocking shows of 2011. Things got off to a bit of a rough start, with MC John J. Thompson introducing the band, who then failed to materialize. (Apparently Stephen was still back on the bus brushing his teeth – I applaud his oral hygiene, if not his punctuality.) But once the band took they stage, they unleashed a torrent of energy that had the crowd on its feet (and occasionally off the ground) and fists in the air.
The set kicked off with a fist-pumping rendition of “Godspeed,” and for the next hour, the band roared through a range of songs from throughout their career. Debut album Blueprints for the Black Market was represented by “Readyfuels,” and a pair of songs were drawn from Never Take Friendship Personal (“Paperthin Hymn” and the title track). Cities was probably a little underrepresented with the aforementioned “Godspeed” and “Dismantle. Repair.”, which was as epic as ever – the dynamics of that song, from the gentle intro to the soaring chorus, with a gorgeous breakdown in the middle, are amazing. New Surrender provided the newer version of “Feel Good Drag,” probably the band’s biggest single, as well as encore selection ”The Resistance,” the Anberlin song most likely to actually incite the riot referenced in the lyrics.
The bulk of the set was drawn from new album Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place, including “We Owe This To Ourselves,” “Closer,” and single “Impossible.” A great melody, awesome guitar riff, and those killer arena rock “whoa-ohs” have brought “Impossible” into my personal all-time favorites list with a bullet. “Pray Tell” brought members of Fallstar to the stage to help out on the driving drum part that anchors the song. “Art of War” and “Take Me As You Found Me” were the only downtempo songs of the evening, offering the band a chance to catch their breath before getting back to the rock.
Perhaps the only misstep of the evening was a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence,” which didn’t translate particularly well to Anberlin’s style (unlike New Order’s “True Faith,” which was fantastic during their set a couple of years ago) and may have sailed over the heads of some of the younger fans in the audience. But as an older fan of the band, I really appreciate the way they blend elements of 80s arena rock shows with a modern rock sensibility; seeing the band pay homage to their influences is still very cool.
To sum up, Anberlin totally killed it on Main Stage, with one of the highlights of the festival. Hopefully some other bands were there to take notes on how you can rock hard and still play melodic songs with impressive technical skill. Anberlin FTW.