Walking along the dimly lit path obscured even further by the driving rain, one might wonder why on earth people were going toward Matoaka Amphitheater, where there was no shelter, instead of away toward their warm, dry dorm rooms. Granted, the downpour was not a freezing rain, but it was miserable nonetheless. The answer was that these enthusiastic students were heading to see Carbon Leaf perform at the first concert of the year at the College of William and Mary.
The heavy precipitation defined Friday night’s Welcome Back Concert featuring Carbon Leaf and Sleeperstar. It had all the traditional makings of a good show at the College: members of AMP stressed and running around in blue shirts; a concerned Mark Constantine waiting in the wings with arms crossed; and an enthusiastic crowd of students excited for the first concert of the year.
The youthful, pop-rock group Sleeperstar opened for the established folk-rock veterans Carbon Leaf and created an atmosphere that appealed to a variety of people.
Sleeperstar returned to the College after a successful Friday @ 5 performance last spring. The band quickly won more students’ hearts with their catchy choruses, as well as the boy-band good looks of lead singer Chris Pearson.
Highlights of the Sleeperstar performance included a guitar-driven cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” and the ballad “Texas Rain,” which began, as if on cue, at the same time as a downpour over Matoaka.
Mid-set, the band proclaimed their nerdy love of board games and Harry Potter, to which the college students enthusiastically cheered.
“We found our people,” Pearson cried. “This is seriously the best show we’ve ever played.”
Sleeperstar then cleared the way for the headliners. Carbon Leaf, who hails from Richmond, is popular among many in-state students.
Around 9:30 p.m., Carbon Leaf took the stage and a thoroughly energized crowd welcomed them. They played the requisite, familiar hits such as “The Boxer,” “What About Everything” and “Life Less Ordinary,” but also showcased more blues and folk-based songs off their latest album, “Nothing Rhymes with Woman.”
In between their original hits, the band transitioned out into classics like “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Day-O,” which, despite the crowd’s enthusiastic sing-along were cut short to be replaced by one of the bands more unfamiliar new songs like, “Miss Hollywood.”
Throughout, singer Barry Privett’s Jethro Tull-like use of several different tin whistles — conveniently kept tucked in the back of his pants — lent an almost Celtic feel to their repertoire.
Before beginning their classic song “Changeless,” Privett, with his hand over his heart, advised the crowd to cherish their time at the College.
“Four, four short years, man; four short years,” he said to the crowd.
When another bout of rain hit, Privett dedicated their song, “Drops of Rain,” to the members of the audience who stayed despite the drenching.
“Thanks for hanging with us through thick and thin guys,” he said to the soaked audience.
For an encore, they took the stage and closed with a slight departure from their other songs: a fervent cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” which pumped up the portion of the crowd who had actually heard of the song.