Better Than Ezra Delivers Boisterous Performance at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, November 9, 2023

If you've never seen BTE live, or you feel guilty because it’s been a while, you don't know what you are missing. Better Than Ezra is enjoyably unpredictable with...

Words and Photos: Elliott Gordon

@PlacemarkPhoto

 

On an unseasonably warm Thursday night in the South, the historic Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, welcomed back to town multi-platinum recording artists Better Than Ezra. Built in 1930, this 1,800-capacity venue was originally designed in a Spanish baroque style and has a general admission floor setting with an upper, seated balcony area. Better Than Ezra, who performed at this same venue just over a year ago, was supported by singer/songwriter Howie Day.

As the clock crossed the 7:30pm evening hour, Day – just a man and his guitar, under the cloak of dimmed venue lights – casually took to the center of the stage in front of a strong early audience turnout. Admittedly I was only casually familiar with Day, but aware that as a solo musician, he heavily leverages samplers, effects pedals, loops, and even the thudding of his guitar to add depth to his performances. Day’s 45-minute set was a captivating experience, which culminated in a moving rendition of arguably his most popular song, “Collide,” from his second album, Stop All the World Now (2003). However, while it has been well-documented that Day is close friends with BTE’s Kevin Griffin, his low-key, gentler setlist tone felt a bit misplaced as an opportunity to amp up a crowd before an alternative rock show.

After a seemingly unnecessary 30-minute break following Day, the house lights went dark just past 8:45pm to signify Better Than Ezra was taking the stage in front of the near-capacity crowd. Anchored by founding members Griffin (lead vocals, guitar) and Tom Drummond (bass), BTE was rounded out by Michael Jerome (drums) and long-time guitarist/keyboardist James Arthur Payne, Jr., as they launched into “King of New Orleans,” a popular tune off their third studio album, Friction, Baby (1996).

If you’ve never seen BTE live, or you feel guilty because it’s been a while, you don’t know what you are missing. Better Than Ezra is enjoyably unpredictable with banter, musically unscripted (even down to following their setlist) and exude such a positive vibe that you feel like you are back in college at a fraternity party jam band performance. It is also worth highlighting that BTE has a deep history rooted in Georgia. Not only did the 55-year-old Griffin remind the audience that he was “born in Atlanta, just two miles down the road from here at Piedmont Hospital,” but reflected lovingly that it was local radio station 99x that broke them into the mainstream back in 1995 with support of “Good,” the first single released from their debut major label release, Deluxe.

As with most BTE shows, there was a sprinkling in of covers performed, showcased on Thursday night by an entertaining rendition of the INXS hit, “Never Tear Us Apart.” The band is also working on their tenth studio album, Sugar Magic, announced by Griffin as being scheduled for release on March 10th, albeit he mentioned jokingly “if we can ever finish it.” Better Than Ezra did perform both of their more recently released singles as well, including “Mystified,” which came out back in July, and “Contact High,” which rolled out just a week ago on November 3rd. Both of these tracks are a fantastic tease for what’s to come from BTE in 2024.

Better Than Ezra closed out their main set with the fan-favorite hit “Desperately Wanting” before returning for a 4-song encore which included “Breathless,” a BTE tune that Taylor Swift actually covered back in 2010 in support of the Hope for Haiti Now telethon. The band put a punctuation mark on the night, revisiting the Deluxe album with an energetic and sing-along performance of “In the Blood.”

This current leg of Better Than Ezra’s “Return of Legends of the Fall Tour” continues through Friday, November 17th, when it will then conclude at the Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

 

https://howieday.com/

Better Than Ezra’s 2023 Tour Dates:

11/03 – Beverly, MA @ The Cabot

11/03 – Patchogue, NY @ Patchogue Theatre

11/05 – Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre

11/09 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre

11/10 – Baton Rouge, LA @ L’Auberge Casino & Hotel

11/11 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues

11/12 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues

11/14 – Oklahoma City, OK @ The Jones Assembly

11/16 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues

11/17 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Better Than Ezra – Setlist

1. King of New Orleans

2. Rosealia

3. Rewind

4. Mystified

5. A Lifetime

6. Wonderwall (Oasis cover)

7. Grateful

8. This Time of Year

9. At the Stars (with Howie Day)

10. Never Tear Us Apart (INXS cover)

11. Contact High

12. Good

13. Laid (James cover)

14. Miss You / Juicy / Rapper’s Delight / O.P.P. / Juicy

15. Desperately Wanting

Encore

16. Porcelain

17. Breathless

18. Live a Little (Chaz Cardigan cover)

19. In the Blood

Better Than Ezra

Tom Drummond – bass guitar, backing vocals

Kevin Griffin – lead vocals, guitar, piano

Michael Jerome – drums, backing vocals

James Arthur Payne Jr. – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals

https://www.betterthanezra.com/

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