Augustana at Varsity Theater, 1/14/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Youa Vang
Augustana with Lauren Shera
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 The band announced in 2011 that they were breaking up, but soon after rescinded and said they would continue to make music, most of that mainly from lead singer, Dan Layus.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
With a humble bow and smile, Dan nods to David to pick up the accordion to accompany him on "Love is in the Air," a piece that drew cheers from the crowd and David singing along in an answer and call style on the refrain. Layus changed up lyrics of the familiar "Meet You There" by talking about his six-year-old daughter saying to her that she probably only knows his voice through a microphone. Right after "Borrowed Time," Dan gave a confused laugh to an audience member's request of "Boston" and the inevitable "Freebird." Instead, he introduced a new song with the most words that he spoke that night, saying, "Good evening. You all doing alright? It's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for showing up. You may be all used to this cold, but for a California boy, I don't know what to say, it's fucking cold. That's all I gotta say. I hope it's okay for me to do new stuff." His new song spoke about youth being wasted on the young, a subject that has not been as aptly put since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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