LIVE REVIEW: Jukebox the Ghost in Portland, ME 09.22.18
“I’m happy to be here.. I feel really weird!” chimed lead singer/pianist Ben Thornewill early on in the set. The quip could pretty much describe any Jukebox the Ghost show, however, this night in particular even more so, since Thornewill and best friend bandmates Tommy Siegel and Jesse Kristin spent the morning in the hospital dealing with a hernia from the show before. But in true rock n’ roll fashion, he had his guts pushed back in, and the show must go on.
An audio recording of Harrison Ford introduced the night, in true Off to the Race style, a nod to the band’s fifth studio album, and launcher of the tour. He called Juicebox and The Ghosts to the stage and they rip roared on with “Girl,” “Open your heart, open your mind / give me a chance, it’s worth taking.” The new album chain of “People Go Home,” “Time and I,” and “Jumpstarted” proved how massive they can be with just three people. The latest effort plays with melodies and Freddie Mercury-esque stacked vocals soaring over crescendoing chords. Given the previous years of “HalloQUEEN,” it only makes sense they put that inspiration into their own works.
Squeezed in between was “Stay the Night,” a track that sort of prequeled the latest era, despite not being on the album. It’s a fun, piano soaked ballad of lover’s lust with catchy choruses and driving rhythm, breaking down into a truly “A Day at the Races” nod.
2016’s “Postcard” continued the sing along as a familiar favorite.
The fun thing about this band is that they’re calculatedly unpredictable. While the crowd seemed to know what song was next based on the first few notes, their mannerisms and storytelling element is quirky and endearing and adds a certain charm to a band who are so fond of puns, especially those revolving around their namesake.
Pulling out a megaphone, singer/guitarist Siegel referred to, “One [they] haven’t played in a while” and crooned first album’s “Beady Eyes on the Horizon.” Another thing this band is good at is morphing existential lyricism with pop hooks and feel good beats, almost mocking some sort of impending doom.. and speaking of, “Adulthood” followed.
“Somebody” and “Diane” stacked on the harmonies more and more before an epic cover of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” happened. The cover is such a great fit that was only a matter of time for them.
Then Jesse Kristin Comedy Interlude started. Creeping up from behind the drumkit, Kristin starts freestyling Smashmouth’s “All Star,” Toto’s “Africa,” Sir Mix-a-Lot, and “Havana-ooh na na” before the band kicked off into “Hollywood.” The jokes continued during the much awaited “Everybody’s Lonely” as Thornewill clutched his side in agony on the falsetto and pretended he had herniated himself again.
Newest single, “Fred Astaire” closed out the set and garnered much more applause than anticipated. A classic romance story of dancing without a care matches the lyrics with ease and youth. The encore consisted of a song where, “The first part is about love, and the second part is about what happens afterwards, which is lighting yourself on fire,” which could only be the combination of “My Heart’s the Same” and appropriately named “Lighting Myself on Fire.” “See You Soon” swooned and sent the crowd home, with promises of a distant tour in the works.
Notable mentions; Fort Gorgeous opened the night as sort of a hometown reunion, as lead singer Billy Libby is originally from Portland. Libby and his backing band warmed up the audience with slow and serene melodies before bumping it up with dreamy shakers and thumping bass.
Second up was The Greeting Committee, who despite their youth, kicked off with a bang of roaring instruments, vibrant dancing, and a whole hell of a lot of energy that didn’t seem to stop throughout their set. They’re super tight and connected, a skill that comes with years of playing together, and will hopefully only grow in their career. Lead singer Addie Sartino is basically the Energizer Bunny, she does not stop moving, all while wailing out heart catching pop songs. Put it this way, X Ambasadors opened for Jukebox in 2011. This band has the potential to follow in that suit, and wouldn’t be far off from a headline tour of their own soon.
Purchase Jukebox the Ghost’s latest studio album Off to the Races by clicking HERE.