|Led by frontman Ryan Miller (center above), Guster was both familiar and fresh Saturday night at House of Blues, marking the band’s 20th year. (Photos By Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe)|
Guster, the now hugely popular band formed at Tufts University in 1991 as an acoustic guitar and bongos trio, has come a long way since touring northeastern college cafes. The effortlessly sunny group, now a four-piece, with five or six playing live, has expanded its sonic boundaries significantly, playing literal musical chairs during a triumphant show Saturday at the House of Blues. Brian Rosenworcel, whose bongo calluses must have some seriously gnarly miles on them by now, even gets to sit at a proper drum kit occasionally.
One thing that has not changed is the band members’ casually charismatic rapport with their fans. Frontman Ryan Miller, in particular, cracked-wise throughout the set, and served as a sort of sardonic Lennon to Adam Gardener’s indefatigably grinning McCartney on songs where they exchange lead vocal lines and blend together in harmony, as on the appropriately titled “Homecoming King’’ with its lyric about being “back in Massachusetts.’’
Miller’s songs, like “This Could All Be Yours,’’ despite their affable pop delivery, have always contained a tinge of sadness that moves them beyond the goofy jam band orbit Guster is often consigned to. Perhaps not so tinged when he’s wearing silly white sunglasses and draped in a shiny disco ball cape on “This Is How It Feels to Have a Broken Heart,’’ the only banjo, harmonica, and keytar disco song I can think of.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the band’s first show, Miller said, before launching into a fan favorite, the Turtles’ “Happy Together’’-style harmonizing of “Barrel of a Gun.’’ Hard to top that, but Rosenworcel’s intentionally dreadful encore cover of “Under the Bridge,’’ a song as old as the band, proved that for all their success, the little Boston trio that could still don’t take themselves too seriously.
With their acoustic trio harmonizing, Philadelphia’s Good Old War channeled early Guster as well Simon and Garfunkel.