South Carolina’s Needtobreathe is a little like beer. You can initially turn up your nose to it, but the more you consume, the less you seem to care about whatever was initially bothering you. For many, that aversion is due to the voice of lead singer Bear Rinehart, who seems to channel the spirit of Joe Cocker at times with his undisciplined, half-shouting, half-singing delivery.
His unique voice was front and center in the second of two shows Needtobreathe played at the Ogden Theatre in Denver. Rinehart’s unpredictable voice was offset by the driving rhythm section and rollicking grooves supplied by his younger brother Bo. Much to the delight of the girls in the audience, Bo played banjo and various electric and acoustic guitars with boyish exuberance and restlessly dancing feet. Bassist Seth Bolt and the band’s touring drummer and keyboard player provided some welcome polish to round out the live sound overall.
The show started out with some urgency, but drifted precariously into lulling territory a few times. The energy started to wane during the main set closer, “Stand by Me,” where opening act Drew Holcomb came back out on stage and the bar chatter of the crowd peaked. Despite the sagging moments in the set, the up-tempo songs like “Drive All Night” and “Girl Named Tennessee” got a warm response from the packed house.
It’s this crowd that ended up causing the most problems for the band. Bear spent the night clashing with a heckler at the front of the stage — a confrontation that ended with the nagging concertgoer apologizing. But even with a bit of verbal sparring aside, Bear acknowledged that there are few cities Needtobreathe can play two consecutive sold out shows. He placed Denver on a small list of cities that really cares about music. After a lengthy wait for an encore, the band invigorated the crowd with an energetic version of “The Outsiders.” And while last year’s gig supporting “The Reckoning” seemed to house a hungrier crowd and a more interesting light show, Wednesday’s performance left few disappointed.
Alan Cox is the president/creative director of Cox Creative, a Highlands Ranch-based creative shop. He works too much, sleeps too little and spends every free moment coaching baseball, shooting images and hanging out with his rowdy sons and rowdier wife. Check out his photos here.
Kit Chalberg is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.