Anberlin / The Early November – Wellmont Theater – Montclair, NJ – 9/17/21

There are many bands that make up the soundtrack to my life, I can go through my record collection and tell the many stories, thoughts, and feelings I had just by playing a record. The soundtrack to my college years was heavily played on two bands, and when I say heavily, I mean I probably could recite the lyrics back to you without the music. Those two bands were The Early November and Anberlin. Two bands that I wouldn’t know where I’d be without them and shaped my taste in music. For the Early November it was The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path and for Anberlin it was Never Take Friendship Personal and Cities. I’ve seen both bands constantly during that period to now, only been able to photograph The Early November, but when this tour was announced I knew I had to attend and I knew the nostalgia was going to kick me right in the face.

The Early November kicked off the show with their gut wrenching song “Call Off The Bells” which I am glad to see this song getting its due. A favorite of mine from the band and also a favorite off the album In Currents. From there Ace and company delivered a high intensity performance. I’ve seen The Early November countless of times and in recent years the only constant in the band has been Ace Enders. There are many reasons for this, but this line up has to be the best tour line up Ace has put together, so much so that each member almost performed like the original members. On rhythm guitar was Brandon Rosenberg, who stayed in the shadows most of the time and was very technical as Bill Lugg. Tom Ryan has played bass with the Early November other times and each time his stage presence is just like Sergio, except haven’t seen him jump off an amp yet. Other guitarist, Mike Carney, is a splitting image of Joe from the younger years, including the hair. Lastly on drums was Jose Lopez, who has been involved with Ace for many years and also other Drive Thru Records bands. I thought Jose stopped playing in bands, and watching him perform made me wonder why he isn’t in a band currently. Not only did he perform the songs flawlessly like Jeff, his playing is probably the best I’ve seen in a long time. The set Early November played featured all the songs they are known for including fan favorites. The only time the set slowed down was when Ace played solo “Ever So Sweet”, which is a staple at an Early November show. This song has been performed many different ways, but for this tour it was solo and Ace explained what the leaf logo means to him and the band. He thanked the crowd for always sticking around and was happy with everything that the fans and the band has given him. I am glad that it feels like the Early November will be around forever, no more breakups. The last song was actually Jose’s last song on the tour which was “I Want To Hear You Sad”, and of course was a great way to end the set and his last day. Even though their set was 13 songs it went quick, and by far one of my favorite Early November performance I’ve seen.

This tour was almost never going to happen. With COVID, members getting sick, and when is it the right time to tour the Anberlin 2021 tour was almost cancelled completely. Happily, we got the tour and it might be one of the best tours of 2021 and Anberlin’s first tour since 2014. Anberlin busted through 15 songs that touched on every album except their first album Blueprints For The Black Market and they even played their new song “Two Graves.” Anberlin took to this show by playing straight through with little to no talking except when Stephen Christian gave a heartfelt speech on doing what it is you want to do. Don’t wait he said because tomorrow is never guaranteed. Stephen couldn’t have said it any better, and the vibes in the theater were positive and uplifting the whole night. Anberlin’s music and message was surely missed. On top of their performance, their light show was mesmerizing to see and was one that not a lot of musicians in their wheelhouse use, but brought in a great element to the show. More bands should take notes on their stage lights. The only time the band slowed down was during “The Unwinding Cable Car” and “Inevitable” where they performed acoustically, but Stephen during “The Unwinding Cable Car” stole the show. He held out the notes at the end for what seemed like 5 minutes which had the crowd cheering for just as long. Since performing the song that way on the live streams it was great to see and hear it that way in person, it brought goosebumps. When they left and came back for an encore, they played one of their biggest songs which was “Feel Good Drag”, and even if it isn’t your favorite song by them you know the energy from that song is on a whole other level. I think everyone can agree that the wait for this tour was worth it, and having Anberlin back full time is a true blessing. What is even better is that as everyone was leaving they got a taste of another new song called “Circles” which solidified that Anberlin was back 100%.

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