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MUSIC REVIEW

Guster breezes home with a newfound range

Guster
With: the Sam Roberts Band
At: the FleetBoston Pavillion, Friday

Guster, a buoyant pop act formed by Tufts University students, has used its word-of-mouth popularity to hit the big time. The group sold out the 5,000 spots in the FleetBoston Pavilion on Friday and played Radio City Music Hall last month. And though Guster moved to New York two years ago, the band celebrated its Boston roots by hiring a Beantown Trolley car to drive it right into the FleetBoston Pavilion to start this latest homecoming, while the theme song from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" played over the speakers.

In recent years, Guster's concert entrances have been almost as comical as some of its intelligently playful pop songs. When the band last played the pavilion, it arrived in a rubber dinghy. And once, at the Orpheum Theatre, band members came in from the ceiling.

Happily, Guster has backed up the high jinks with increasingly rewarding music. Once stereotyped as an acoustic pop trio, Guster now changes colors, tempos, and harmonies with impressive skill. Core members Ryan Miller (vocals, guitar), Adam Gardner (guitar, vocals), and Brian Rosenworcel (percussion) have expanded their talents to include more electric guitar and, in Rosenworcel's case, a full drum kit alongside his percussion setup. And a fourth member, Joe Pisapia, has been added to give road performances more punch, as he moves easily from keyboards to guitars and banjos.

The young crowd (mostly young women) ate it up Friday, singing along to nearly everything. Guster responded with an exhilarating show: It's worth noting how much this band has improved since it first started writing songs in a Somerville apartment. And the group's sweet tenor harmonies sparked numerous peaks, from the opening "What You Wish For" through "Barrel of a Gun," "Homecoming" (where Gardner switched between a plectrum and finger-picking to coax different colors), and "Fa Fa."

The band members are hovering around 30, which suggests that the group now has a mature professionalism to match its energy. That energy flowed at the pavilion, spiced by some welcome covers of the Talking Heads' "Nothing But Flowers" and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," done as an impromptu but effective tribute to the country legend.

Montreal's Sam Roberts Band opened with a Tom Petty-style set of hook-laden guitar rock that had some hits and misses but that showed great promise.

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