It was a picturesque fall day in Central New York. The air was perfectly chilly, the leaves danced in the wind, and the sun was shined down on The Westcott Theater in Syracuse, NY. It was the perfect day for Aqueous in more ways the one. The fast-rising Buffalo four-piece has played the Westcott many times in years past. However, this was their first time taking that stage in over 2 years. With Thursday’s performance serving as their fall tour opener, the hype and excitement were at a high as fans from across New York congregated in Syracuse ready to celebrate the home team.
To make things sweeter, the night was kicked off by an especially heavy set from future-groove trio lespecial, who will accompany Aqueous throughout the tour. It’s a truly terrific pairing, as both bands play with such intensity and passion that it forces everyone to bring their A-game. By the time lespecial’s hour-long opening set ended, the venue was buzzing as everyone whooped and hollered, now ready for the main course.
The four members of Aqueous were all smiles as they took the stage to an explosion of joy from the crowd. The guys picked up their gear and jumped into the feel-good tune “What’s The Connection” off one of their earlier albums, 2012’s Willy is 40. In typical AQ fashion, once these guys got rolling there was no slowing down. The first set would see the band play a plethora of tracks from all over their ever-growing discography.
For those who do not know, guitarist Mike Gantzer has got some serious love for all things 90s. Following a scorching “Numbers and Facts” played with a new arrangement, Gantzer called out to the crowd, “This one’s for all the 90’s kids!” as the band launched into Blink-182‘s 90s pop-punk anthem, “Dammit”.
In the middle of an 808-heavy “Eon Don” sandwich, Aqueous threw in another jaw-dropping cover for the older heads in the crowd: “Pseudo Suicide” by Oysterhead, the recently revived supergroup comprised of Trey Anastasio (Phish), Les Claypool (Primus), and Stewart Copeland (The Police). Guitarist/keyboardist Dave Loss issued his best Claypool impersonation on vocals as bassist Evan McPhaden dialed in on the low end and drummer Rob Houk unleashed a burst of energy that would make Copeland proud on the appropriately-timed cover.
[Photo: Jim Houle]
Starting with another throwback, the second set got moving with a “Dave’s Song” on which Gantzer and Loss’ chemistry truly shined. Playing with the perfect ebb and flow, the two seem to have an unspoken understanding regarding when to take lead and when to take a step back and let the other shine. You can tell it’s as fun for them as it is for their fans.
From there, they grooved into another AQ classic, “Skyway”, sans intro and got right into the meat of the tune including a tasty “Purple Haze” tease for the Hendrix fans in the building. Aqueous dusted off one last cover and two-stepped their way around “Jealous” by the electro-funk duo Chromeo.
The musical high point of the show was still to come, as the band worked through a new, faster arrangement of “Complex, Pt. I” and into the first rendition of “Wandering” in 110 shows before landing in a set-closing “Complex, Pt. II”, the same sequence in which the three songs appear on 2014’s Cycles.
The roars from the crowd as the band put down their gear were overwhelming. They got even louder when the band returned to the stage for their encore. Starting with the signature bassline, McPhaden let rip the start of the always-funky “Origami”.
[Photo: Jim Houle]
Overall, this was another phenomenal show from this foursome. For being the first show of the Aqueous fall tour, you could feel and see the excitement in every direction. Each year, the Buffalo-based band gains more traction. The guys in Aqueous have been putting in extra work for quite some time and it’s a pleasure to see how well it translates. Every show, they come out red-hot. If these guys are coming anywhere near you, do whatever you can to be there. You certainly won’t regret it.
For a full list of upcoming Aqueous tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Aqueous | Westcott Theater | Syracuse, NY | 10/24/19
SET ONE: What’s the Connection?1, How High You Fly, Be the Same, Numbers and Facts2, Dammit, Eon Don2 > Timmy’s Blades > Pseudo Suicide3 > Eon Don
SET TWO: Dave’s Song4 > Skyway5, Jealous, Complex Pt. I2 > Wandering2 6 > Complex Pt. II
1 Rebel Rebel (David Bowie) teases
2 New arrangement
3 I’ll Be There For You (Rembrandt’s) tease
4 Let’s Go Buffalo quote
5 Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix) teases
6 BUSTOUT: LTP 2018/4/21 (111 shows)
7 Rastaman Chant (Bob Marley) teases