JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

September 4, 2014
Rockin' Rodeo
Denton, TX USA
Review by Tim Taylor
Photos by Kimberly Taylor

Justin Furstenfeld

Justin Furstenfeld Shows No Fear On His 'Open Book' Tour

For years, people have been fanatical about Blue October for many reasons, but mostly for lead singer Justin Furstenfeld's introspective and brutally honest lyrics and stories told within the music. In 2012, after releasing a revised version of his book Crazy Making, Justin did several solo shows that included spoken word, answering random fan questions, and acoustic versions of Blue October favorites, and he named the tour "An Open Book." This year, while Blue October took a break from their Sway tour, Justin scheduled several more of these shows, including a 5-week residency at Hotel Café in Hollywood, and released Songs From An Open Book, a collection of acoustic renditions of Blue October songs and their accompanying stories that he tells at his shows.

Two days after the album was released, he opened his tour at Rockin' Rodeo in Denton, Texas in front of a sold-out crowd of dedicated followers who hung on his every word. From the moment Justin started singing the somber version of "The Answer" that he opened with, a look of confidence came over him as if he knew that he had every single one of his adoring fans in that building riveted. The same audience who had so rudely talked over opening act Ashleigh Stone's beautiful set now sat completely silent, quietly lip-syncing every word that came out of Justin's mouth. He followed that with the dark "Black Orchid," which he preceded with a hilarious story about the lyrics to the song scaring the hell out of his parents. He talked about his youth, his first serious girlfriend, and how his friend inspired the lyrics in the chorus to "Breakfast After 10," which turned into a fun sing-along.

As he opened up and let the audience learn about his life, everyone laughed and felt closer to Justin, and did their best to understand the feelings he wrote songs about in some darker times. Particularly moving were his new, haunting version of "Angel" and "Chameleon Boy." After telling the stories behind them, tears started flowing around the room as people began to feel the pain and raw emotion in his songwriting.

As he progressed through the time-line of his life and career, his intensity notably changed when he started talking about losing his oldest daughter Blue in a bitter divorce, which was the subject of the entire Any Man In America album in 2011. Earlier in the show, Justin mentioned that "The Worry List" from that album, which speaks directly to Blue, is not just his favorite song to perform; it's his heart. We all felt that as he poured his soul into a powerful performance of that song while most likely forgetting about his audience, and thinking only of his daughter.

He spoke about how anger and substance abuse consumed him after losing Blue, and how his new wife Sarah and his youngest daughter Sayde helped him find sobriety and the happiness he has in his life today. As he played "Fear," a beautiful song he wrote for Sayde that appears on 2013's Sway, Justin let go of his guitar and belted out the most impassioned vocals of the night, sending shivers down everyone's spines. He ended the show by dedicating "Not Broken Anymore" to his wife, and blowing our minds with an a-Capella rendition of "Bleed Out" that left many in awe of what they had just experienced.

You'd be hard pressed to find a singer/songwriter with the kind of passion and sincerity that Justin Furstenfeld gives to his fans every night, whether on stage by himself or with Blue October. His songs are real and heartfelt, and they help the listeners through their own lives and pain. It's so easy to see why so many people are obsessed with his music.