Even before the band took the stage, the scene at Club Fever in South Bend Friday evening gave an indication of what was to come. Onstage were chairs and racks of acoustic guitars lit by a blue spotlight; offstage an effusive crowd sang along to songs being played over the s peakers like the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.”
Veteran hard rock/metallers Sevendust played two sets of acoustic versions of their songs. They are currently on a tour to support their recent release Time Travelers and Bonfires, an acoustic album that featured six new songs and six re-recorded versions of old tunes. The choice of their old songs was made via voting by the band’s fans.
Acoustic versions of songs have long been considered the test of how truly good a band’s work was, since the song’s bones are exposed without being electrified. For their part, Sevendust exuded confidence in their ability to pull off the acoustic songs. It is territory they’ve visited before, as evidenced on their 2004 release, Southside Double-Wide: Acoustic Live. The unusual nature of the evening was also emphasized by the show’s structure - no opening bands, and two sets by Sevendust.
The band members appeared onstage to the tune of touring keyboardist Kurt Wubbenhorst’s mellotron and quickly launched into a version of “Trust.” Two things became clear almost immediately: first, that the acoustic set highlighted the exceptional vocal performance of Lajon Witherspoon, and second, that the non-electric version opened up a new dimension of the band’s songs. The guitar parts were tight (as opposed to the loose, informal quality of some acoustic performances), and yielded some different results than those of their electric versions. For example, what comes across as churning guitar crunch was transmuted into something lilting and almost ethereal, lending an interestingly uplifting quality to some of their guitar parts.
Despite the relatively somber mood imparted by the acoustic sets, all was not overly serious. For his part, Witherspoon chatted and joked with the crowd in between songs, and the band included some semi-ironic covers in the set - Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Another highlight for the evening was their rendition of “Crucified,” which shone as being especially impassioned acoustically.
A full 20 years into their career, Sevendust pulled off two acoustic sets that highlighted their musicianship and songcraft, effectively offering a unique spin on their trademarked sound.