Photos and review by Jenna Hughes
The atmosphere at Center Stage was quiet and calm on Tuesday night as fans eagerly awaited the stripped down solo performance of Justin Furstenfeld (of Blue October). The standing room floor was transformed into a seating area and those seats filled up fast with dedicated fans. Strangers chatted and bonded with one another about their personal experiences with Justin’s music and lyrics, which has come to be expected at any Blue October show. There is a closeness of the band’s fans that is unrivaled and they all share the same view: Justin Furstenfeld is their hero.
Opener Ashleigh Stone took the stage first, a single spotlight on her and a piano. Stone, a singer/songwriter out of San Marcos, Texas, was mesmerizing with her stark vocals and a talent on the keys reminiscent of Tori Amos or Fiona Apple. Her music was rather somber in tone but Stone was all smiles, joking with the audience between songs.
The stage was then stripped of all but one chair, a microphone and a small black table. Candles were placed all across the stage, setting the mood. Finally, Justin Furstenfeld walked out to roaring applause, waving to fans before taking his seat. He cleared his throat, picked up his acoustic guitar and began to read from his book Crazy Making. The book chronicles Justin’s journey with Blue October since the band’s first album, 1998’s The Answers to 2011’s Any Man In America. Justin started things off with the title track from The Answers, a stripped down version that set the tone for the rest of the night.
Justin continued the journey through Blue October’s history with “Come In Closer,” “Graceful Dancing,” “Calling You” and the band’s mega-hit “Hate Me.” Every song had a story behind it, delivered by Justin with raw honesty. He truly was an open book on that stage, sharing his struggles with depression and substance abuse and his painful divorce and custody battle that inspired the album Any Man In America. Perhaps the most powerful performance of the night was a spoken word version of the title track on that album, after which Justin admitted that he regrets writing and recording the song because he wants to be a role model for his daughters and the song is a very angry one.
Throughout the night, Justin read aloud and answered questions that fans submitted before the show. One standout was when a fan asked him if he had any advice for someone who was “Still Broken” (a reference to one of the band’s songs). Justin told him that the secret to happiness is getting rid of the people in your life that bring you down. If something brings you down, there is no room for it in your life. Justin spoke about how he had done this very thing in his life and that is what inspired him to write “Not Broken Anymore,” which closed out the show. The new song, a dedication to his wife, really shows how much Justin has grown after being put through hell. His story is a moving and inspiring one for anyone dealing with depression or just going through a hard time. To quote Justin, “People always try to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But what you have to do is make that light visible right now, right in front of you.” Wiser words have never been spoken.