Last night at the Knitting Factory, NeedToBreathe left me gasping for air. The groups who opened the show, Seabird and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, were fantastic, too, and after seeing them, I could easily have left the venue feeling satisfied with an excellent musical experience. But there's a reason why NeedToBreathe was the main event—they took the evening to a new level.
This group of four, who began together 11 years ago as barely-men from Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, have come into their own with their latest album, The Outsiders, which leads their current tour. With names like Bear and Bo, the Rinehart brothers who front the band are still denim-and-flannel-wearin' Southern boys from head-to-toe. However, they've added a harder edge and an alt-rock style that pushes the boundaries of traditional country music and opens the door for interpretation. True to the album name, these "outsiders" are doing their own thing, but it resonates deeply with listeners. The packed concert house on a Monday night was evidence of that.
And speaking of packed concert house, I feel certain that NeedToBreathe could have sold out a larger venue, like the Idaho Center, and filled it with their sound, but the intimacy of the Knitting Factory afforded an opportunity for a special conclusion. Summoned by screaming fans, the band came out for a generous four-song encore. For the fourth number, though, Bear Rinehart asked his tech crew to shut off the sound-system so that he could share an acoustic version of a song he wrote for his father. Without electricity or amps, NeedToBreathe gathered at the front edge of the stage and serenaded us with aching beauty. It was kind of like this, only better:
I always like live music but I'm not big on concert memorabilia. At NeedToBreathe, though, I bought the CD and the T-shirt. That simple act says a lot.