The Portland, Ore. band Blind Pilot was perfectly comfortable on stage at the Boulder Theater Monday night. The group was so at home, they were able to silence the crowd long enough to play an unplugged version of the title track from their debut album “3 Rounds and a Sound.” The audience remained completely silent with only the occasional “Shhhh,” until lead singer Israel Nebeker invited the crowd to join, turning the entire venue into a choir.
The nearly sold out theater was calm and captivated throughout the evening, as the folk group played through nearly their entire two-album repertoire. Moving from rustic ballads to twangy, percussion-driven pop music, Blind Pilot showed how dynamic live music can be. Using an array of different instruments, the six-piece found depth that can occasionally be lost in recorded sessions. Sometimes Dave Jorgensen would command the show with a trumpet solo, or Ian Krist would provide tasteful vibraphone flourishes. But even with so much happening at once, Nebeker’s voice would always shine through, causing the crowd to sing along.
It seemed to be a night dedicated to couples of all ages. The majority of the audience was grouped into pairs, arm-in-arm, knowing every word to the love-heavy lyrics. Opening act Martha Scanlan set the mellow tone of the night early with a 45-minute set of gentle, acoustic singer/songwriter tunes. With the theater packed, she ended her set by bringing Blind Pilot on stage and playing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Went To See The Gypsy.”
Blind Pilot’s set lasted about an hour long, and was only interrupted by the band briefly thanking the audience. Banjo player Kati Claborn pointed out that Colorado has been their warmest tour stop, which is nice, she said, because the heater on their bus “is less than thorough.” The statement helped sum up just how down to earth the show was.
Their last song was a solo-fueled version of “We Are The Tide,” the title track from their 2011 release. But a few minutes of enthusiastic stomps and applause brought Blind Pilot back on stage. Their three-song encore consisted of the intimate, unplugged song and Nebeker playing most of “The Bitter End” on his own. But the end of the concert wasn’t as bitter as the song would suggest –– more bittersweet.
Matt Miller is a new contributor to Reverb.
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.