By ZL Boudreaux
Better Than Ezra brought their rockin’ slightly pop sound combined with a handful of covers to L’Auberge’s outdoor arena, The Yard. Indeed a great spot for a show, plenty of room for alcohol vendors to set up tents, the levee for those who want to sit and a nice sized bandstand and pit. The crowd was delighted, packed against the stage and roared with approval at every mention of LSU Football, whether it was banter between songs or improvised lines.
Originally from Baton Rouge it’s no surprise the band are Tiger fans, so much in fact in 2011 they released Death Valley EP, which featured their take on popular traditional tailgating and Tiger Band songs. The original band members were students at LSU when they started the band over 20 years ago.
Two decades later they’re a little older but still move and jam like young men onstage. Their key to longevity aside from a catchy sound is an extremely dedicated fan base. Some classify the group as pop with their clean and well-edited album tracks. Live, though, it’s straight rock n’ roll. Loud distorted guitars, energy, raw soulfulness and the thundering impressive drumming of Michael Jerome just can’t be properly replicated on studio recordings.
Crazy Lucky, a single off their eighth and latest album All Together Now is a perfect example. Live it felt a lot more like a rock song, and you could hear all the musical elements working together; distinct drumming keeping you moving, the bass and keys filling out the lower end of the acoustic strumming. On the studio track I personally think you lose a lot of that. Mostly all you can hear are the vocals and bopping acoustic guitar rhythm and Jerome’s drumming gets lost behind that and the vocals. Maybe it’s because they switched record labels for the last album, but it sounds a lot less musical than some of their older stuff, almost like they’re going for a singer/songwriter feel over a rock/pop band one.
If there’s one thing Ezra knows, it’s how to play to their audience. After a set of original songs, they closed out the last half of their concert with cover songs the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and other Southern favorites. It could have easily been a house-show as engaged and close feeling the band was to its hometown audience.
At one point, lead singer Kevin Griffin stopped playing and alerted security to domestic abuse occurring in the front rows. He waited to start again and expressed his disgust until they escorted the over indulged woman-beating bum out of the concert to the applause of everyone there. Hopefully, the lady involved got to stay and enjoy the rest of the concert, the extent of her injuries are unknown.
During one of the last songs, they invited female attendees on stage to dance and sing along and a couple dozen well-dressed ladies took over the stage, drinks and cellphones in hand. It was certainly the most entertaining spectacle of the evening. It was just as great as you’re probably imagining. Never before has this reporter witnessed so many simultaneous group selfies, spilled Bud Light or such impassioned lip-syncing at one time. Hopefully, the keyboardist got his fedora back from that one girl.