Good Old War Finds New Ways to Connect at the Bluebird

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On Friday night, Good Old War took a high-energy and lively crowd at the Bluebird Theater and, by the end, transformed it into a quiet and transfixed audience that hung on the band’s every word.

The Philadelphia trio managed this by playing a show full of carefully written pop songs that are poignant yet fun, which kept the crowd engaged and energized. The group made the show an intimate affair by hopping into the crowd and playing the encore unplugged and among its fans.

Broken Into Better Shape, the band’s latest album, is not a far cry from its three previous albums, but Good Old War's subtle differences and improvements show that they are maturing as performers and musicians. Starting with the song “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” from Broken Into Better Shape, drummer Tim Arnold, who recently reunited with the band after a three-year absence,  pounded out a tribal beat as keyboardist/vocalist Keith Goodwin and singer/guitarist Dan Schwartz traded vocal melodies and lively shouts.

In the band's past, Schwartz always stuck to acoustic guitar, and his signature style still helps shape the band. This time, Schwartz switched from acoustic to an electric guitar perched upon a stand and played slick blues based leads that caused the audience to erupt with applause every time he finished.

Goodwin, who handles most of the lead vocal duties, showed musical prowess of his own, providing depth on keys, while also switching to electric guitar for several songs later in the set. Goodwin’s vocals are smooth and on pitch while Schwartz provides complementary harmonies. The way the two sing together is reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel who, like Good Old War, possessed the ability to sing introspective and uplifting songs with a hint of melancholy.

Older songs like “Coney Island” and “That’s Some Dream” were updated a bit with some new musical parts, but still kept the earnestness and introspection that the band is so good at. Watching the crowd bounce up and down as the band sang, “I’m gonna live, I’m alright, I’m gonna die, I’m alright…” put the subject of mortality in a new light and made it not so scary to think about.

The crowd, full of younger “college types” wearing dockers and flip-flops, sang along with most of the songs and it didn’t seem to matter that a lot of the words deal with loneliness, death and heartbreak — it seemed they were just there to have a good time with a very fun band and you can't blame them for that. 

As Good Old War returned for the for the encore, the band hopped into the audience and played the final three songs, campfire style, as the audience members sang along, took videos on their phones and laughed with the musicians between songs.

It is a move that not a lot of bands can pull off, but Good Old War showed on this night that they are capable of all types of musical tricks, pulling them off with precision and passion while still leaving room for entertainment. 

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