From the rafters of Usher Hall, I longed to be down below in the crowd but stayed grateful for my press tickets as I waited to see a band that I’ve loved for so long. A band so distinct to my home of the northeastern US, whose lead singer is from a New Jersey town 20 minutes from mine, whose Twitter inspired my senior quote, and has spent a decade singing about a life which I want to follow. There certainly was plenty of significance to see a band so connected to home for me in front of me for the first time in a city I’ve made somewhat of a home, but so far from where I learned to love this music.
Yet in an instant, those gleaming notes of ‘White Sky’ send me back. They are as charming as ever standing on the Usher Hall stage and seem to genuinely appreciate being in Edinburgh, taking multiple moments throughout the set to acknowledge the beauty of the city and how happy they are to be starting their tour here.
It must feel strange for them to reminisce about their early days touring here, they seem such an eternally youthful presence that their transition to becoming something of modern pop-rock legends is a bit jarring. The album they are here to tour, Father of the Bride, is certainly not my favourite of theirs, but at least sees Ezra growing up and embracing “dad-rock” in full swing.
While I do wish I could have seen them as their original lineup touring one of their classics, seeing them as a joyful, well-oiled machine here is still nothing to scoff at.
They certainly have fun playing their new material, often adding radically different solos and instrumentation, such as in ‘Sunflower’ or ‘2021’ that make me appreciate them somewhat more. Yet for as fun as these are, nothing was more enjoyable for me then to hear them break out some of the most nostalgic songs I know with pure glee and perfection. ‘M79’ reminds me of days in high school, skipping school to go to New York with my friends, and the brilliant lyrics and feel of ‘Step’ (especially “wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth”) will never not be relevant.
I felt Ezra was reaching out specifically to me, far off in the rafters, as they covered “I’m Goin’ Down” by Bruce Springsteen, the patron saint of New Jersey. While the Edinburgh crowd may not have understood it’s magic I was sure to sing along and give Ezra a loud chant of “Bruce” as he requested once it finished.
Moments like these are all I could ever hope for seeing such a nostalgic and special band to me and I am truly honoured that they provided.
Daring to go past the 10 PM closing mandate (something that still baffles me having spent my formative years going to concerts that didn’t start til about 10), Ezra continued to magic with one of the best encores I have ever seen going ‘Mansard Roof’, ‘Walcott’, ‘Hannah Hunt’, ‘Worship You’, and ‘Ya Hey.’
I may not have been in the crowd to dance and move as these songs warranted, but I was endlessly lucky to see a band that special to me transport this homesick Jersey boy back for a couple hours and remind me of some of the first songs that made me realise how special music really is.
Image: via David LaMason