Justin Furstenfeld has issues. But don't we all? Unloved, unappreciated, misunderstood, the pang of a broken heart, lonely; we can all relate. Journaling our innermost thoughts with honesty and integrity is said to be therapy for the soul. These are meant to be private escapes for our minds and hearts to write without any inhibitions, however disturbing the content. There are few who would be willing to divulge these intimate expressions and then there's Justin Furstenfeld.
It's well documented that Justine has battled drugs and alcohol to cope with his bouts of depression, only to seem to add to it with them. Not documented in the sense that there's a biography but in his ingenious gift and guts to release some of that written angst and merge it with multi-dimensional instrumentals; i.e. "Hate Me". That is the essence of Blue October.
Army of Me, a four piece from Washington, played a forty minute set that was O.K. All their songs had a monotone sound with juvenile lyrics like "reach for the stars". Some kids were singing along so I guess they weren't awful, just a little boring.
After more than 30 minutes of stage fine-tuning, sound checking, and the scurrying of more security than needed (it was after all an all ages show and most of the kids were chaperoned), Blue October calmly walked on. In his tailored suit and opting for a little less black eyeliner, Justin's semi- Goth look was subdued tonight.
Leading right into the first track off their latest CD Foiled, "You Make Me Smile" then hitting back with "High Risk Self Abuse", Furstenfeld lured us into his schizophrenic world, which is anything but subdued. Gnash your teeth songs, like "Razorblade", "Ugly Side" and "Drilled A Wire Through My Cheek" were delivered with vigor and bone chilling theatrics. In the midst of all the maddening lyrics like "sharpen the knife"; "I freak out÷ razorblade cut me", a softer Justin materializes to sing one of his favourites. "It's a song you probably don't know but it's one of my favourite songs to do live." With that, Furstenfeld sweetly pipes out "I see your heart beat through the sheets; feel your pulse through the floor", a beautiful love song.
As he belted out tunes with profound passion, the deeper we sank into the dark, disturbing yet artistically brilliant mind of Justin Furstenfeld. He confesses to "everybody having issues. I just decided to document them." It's like he's singing for all of us, expressing all of our fears and helping us with songs like "Let It Go" and "Quiet Mind".
The highlights were numerous but most impressive are Blue October's symphonic sound. Sure, CB Hudson's guitar riffs are awing, Matt Noveskey bass line in "Razorblade" is stunning and the riveting drum rhythms of Jeremy Furstenfeld bring it all together. But it's Ryan Delahoussaye's multifaceted musicianship that truly brings BO's sound to a whole new plateau. Whether he's strumming the mandolin, the guitar, hammering out at the keys or gracefully gliding the bow on the violin, Ryan adds texture to give this band that unique edge. Oh yeah, he also provides back up harmonies along with the rest of the guys but he's usually got the violin gripped under his chin.
Toning everything down during the encore to perform the epic track "18th Floor Balcony" defines BO's mastery of their craft. Justin's introspective lyrics "I knew it from the start/ My arms are open wide/ I'm yours for the taking" sung so honestly emotional and accompanied with just the whisper of instrumentals. Gorgeous.
Of course they also played their two hit singles "Into The Ocean" and "Hate Me", but those songs don't come close to defining Blue October. It seems that a lot of other people share that sentiment as the band was presented with its first platinum album for Foiled that very night. Justin graciously accepted the honor with "this is what you guys have done for us. Thank you so much. You guys have given me such a lift; a reason to live."
Let's hope that lift can carry Justin over the evils that have taunted him so he can continue to share more of his beautiful inner spirit and help us all deal with our issues.
*If you or someone you know is going through any of these issues, here are some phone numbers that can help: Crossroads Prayer Line: (416) 929-1500,and Kids Help Phone (24 hours): 1-800-668-6868.
Writer: Lisa Kerr