by Alison Angel
Throughout their 25-song set at the Visulite Theater on Monday, Feb. 6, Augustana frontman Dan Layus was never without a smile on his face as he belted out lyrics that make up the band’s nine-year history. It was quite a different sight from the frontman of two years ago — an alcoholic who couldn’t seem to see the brighter side of life.
With this tour, Augustana makes it clear that those days are long gone. Despite a lineup that has been in constant turmoil and being dropped from their label, Epic, after six years, the band is back with a new set of songs reflecting their contentment with life and a mellow attitude which is reflected in every song.
The foursome took the stage without a word. Only the low whine of a lone guitar chord announced the band's presence as they launched into “Hey Now” from their 2008 album Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt.
With lyrics like “Now we’re bleeding for nothing... We’re damned at the end and we’re damned at the start,” Layus showcased his attitude as a songwrtier and his crew blossomed with a steady guitar rhythm carrying them forward. Constant smiles on their faces indicated that although the same sweet melodies drive their music, they are not the same band that wrote those words so long ago.
Layus took a moment to assure the audience they aren’t the kids they used to be. The band — now in their late 20s, happily married and with kids — formed “before we were old enough to drink,” Layus told the crowd. He said that he wrote the new songs to reflect the happiness he felt being in love and being sober for almost a year. Though their self-titled CD, Augustana, didn’t make a killing commercially when it was released in April — low sales were the reason Epic dropped the band — it is clear Layus is prouder of these songs than any others.
Citing his long struggle with alcohol, Layus told the packed house, “Everything that I went through made me into the man that I am today... There’s just been this whole new wave of absurd positivity flowing out of me. I got good things going on.” Launching into a song he penned at home while with his three kids, Layus grinned as he summed up his attitude on life today thanks to those dark times — “I got a little bit of faith in the hard times.”
Augustana weaved its way flawlessly through a two-hour set, making sure to include their biggest hits, "Boston" and "Sweet and Low," during which the crowd broke their silence to chant along.
As he absentmindedly let his fingers play over the piano while the set was winding down, Layus showed maturity which the band lacked for a long time while also acknowledging his personal struggles. “I’ve been down some dark dark roads, but I see the light,” Layus said. “But I’m figuring it out. We’re getting there.”
Someone’s Baby Now
I Still Ain’t Over You
Stars and Boulevards
Sweet and Low
Either Way, I’ll Break Your Heart Someday
Shot in the Dark
You Were Made For Me
Easy Lessons Are the Hardest to learn
Life Goes On
Counting the Stars
On the Other Side
Like a Whisper
Just Stay Here Tonight
Need a Little Sunshine
Wrong Side of Love
Steal Your Heart