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Concert Review: Dustin Kensrue

September 10, 2015

written by Brian Shesko

On Tuesday night, Student Activities hosted Dustin Kensrue and The Rocketboys in concert at the LaHaye Event Space.

One of things we love most about Dustin Kensrue’s music is the appropriateness of his voice for both the style and thematic elements of his songs. Of course, much of that is natural ability, but this is not just an observation that Dustin has a great voice for rock music. No, it is appropriate in the sense that despite his grit and growl, his vocal quality moves effortlessly between tracks regardless of tone or topic. Anyone who was in the building last night heard this on full display throughout the nearly 90 minute, 20 song setlist.

But before Dustin started, fans were treated to a terrific set by The Rocketboys, their sound reminiscent of groups like Band of Horses, some of the more atmospheric moments of Kings of Leon, and the rockier moments of Coldplay. The highlight (for me, at least) was the soaring track “Carry Me”. Everyone was treated to their version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, which closed the show. The Rocketboys then served as Dustin’s band for just under half of the concert and were nearly flawless in their accompaniment. “I love these guys,” said Dustin between tracks, and their fit together made the feeling seem mutual.

Dustin sang 9 of the 10 songs on his excellent, new album Carry the Fire, opening the show with the first two tracks on the album, “Ruby” and “Back to Back”. Fans were also treated to most of his first album Please Come Home. He made it clear during the solo, acoustic portion of his set that songs from his worship album The Water & The Blood would not be part of the show (though he did perform the absolutely crushing track It’s Not Enough from that album). From the earliest moments, the power, depth of emotion, and ease with which Dustin sings was evident, perfectly demonstrated on lighter-hearted tracks like “Pistol” and heavy-hearted tracks like “There’s Something Dark Inside of Me”.

Much of Carry the Fire deals with darkness, a theme that appears throughout his other work as well – darkness as evil, whether within us or in the world around us, or, as he pointed out in the commentary to the track “In the Darkness”, as that which is unknown. There is a requisite familiarity with such things, one that comes from honest introspection, that allows someone to sing about them and sound like they’re telling the truth. Dustin accomplishes this on his studio albums, but hearing it in person made it an enrapturing experience. “You are all very respectful,” Dustin whispered into the mic in a quiet moment between songs. Though the crowd was a bit quiet, lack of noise shouldn’t be confused for disinterest. It was more like intent focus, even reverence. Which would you rather have: too much “WOO!”-ing, or none at all? For Dustin’s show, quiet worked just fine.

Dustin covered three songs as well (four, if you count “A Song for Milly Michaelson” by Thrice), each of them with themes that fit perfectly with much of what he sings about in his own music. He explained that he likes to choose pop songs that, if you can peel away the fabrication and façade, actually have a lot to say about love, relationships, and truth, and then proceeded with Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”. Somehow, Dustin made a song so easy to hate completely easy to love. His performance of Lorde’s “Buzzcut Season” was possibly the highlight of my night, as Dustin singing her words, “Nothing’s wrong when nothing’s true”, added a new dimension to an already excellent song. But the defining moment of the night came from the last song of the night, a cover of a Tom Wait’s song called “Down There By the Train”. “This song gets the gospel better than 95% of the songs that play on Christian radio,” Dustin said calmly. Read the lyrics. Listen to the song. It is hard to argue with what he said. Dustin sang much about difficulty, fear, and sin throughout the night, but he ended the show with grace.

Dustin Kensrue makes excellent music, he crafts lasting stories with hymn-like poetry and themes that touch on the deepest parts of life. But most of all, he tells the truth. Every one of his songs is worthy of consideration and exploration. Hearing him perform some of those songs live in concert last night was nothing short of outstanding.



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