Augustana at Varsity Theater, 1/14/13
|Photo by Youa Vang|
Monday, January 14, 2013
Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Augustana, a band that certainly has had its ups and downs. The band announced in 2011 that they were breaking up, but soon after rescinded and said they would continue to make music, most of that mainly from lead singer, Dan Layus. Before you roll your eyes at the group that made its name from hits about love on contemporary adult radio, revisit their discography. More importantly, spend an evening with Dan and his one band member, David Lamoureux, and you will most likely change your mind.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar and his bandmate on piano, Dan knows how to command the audience with his heartbreaking voice. Most of the band's original songs were intended for a full band setup, but take on a softly poetic and sad tinge when played acoustic. Opening with "Mayfield," a song questioning the future of a relationship, he quickly moved into the single off Can't Love, Can't Hurt, "I Still Ain't Over You."
When playing an acoustic set, it's easier to take liberties with the songs and change up the chord progressions and constructions of the pieces, which can either be a welcome change or annoying. If Layus wasn't such a talented musician, it would certainly would have been the latter. The night was a mix from the band's three albums with some newly written songs thrown in. Currently without a label -- the band was dropped from Epic after disappointing sales from their self-titled third album Augustana -- Layus proves that even if a song was not that spectacular on a record, he can still make it work live such as "Just Stay Here Tonight" off Augustana.
At certain angles, Layus looks like a young Jakob Dylan, at others, a young Chris Cornell, but he is no cookie-cutter writer with his lyrics. While most of his songs are about redemption or unrequited love, you would expect his songs to be awkward and clunky, but they are not so at all. Each song is elegant in its own right, especially with their hits "Sweet and Low," which had Layus picking up his harmonica, and "Boston," a song penned when Dan was just in his teens. Approaching the keyboards, Dan performed one of the most underrated songs from the band, a poignant version of "Fire."
|Photos by Youa Vang|