Taylor Swift Tour Opener Brings Southern Rock To Sold-Out NYC Crowd

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South Carolina rockers NEEDTOBREATHE have been together for over a decade, but it wasn’t until a certain country star invited them on tour that they hit the mainstream.

Back in 2010 Taylor Swift expressed her admiration for the band on Twitter.

Less than a year later, NEEDTOBREATHE were booked as the main opener during Swift’s U.S. tour.

Last year, NEEDTOBREATHE’s standout record, The Reckoning, became their first album to reach the Top 10. Meanwhile, they made their network television debut and performed on the Late Show With David Letterman.

Front man Bear Rinehart expressed his gratefulness to fans during NEEDTOBREATHE’s sold-out show last night (Thursday, April 19) in New York.

“We used to say we feel like we would have made it if we played Leno and Letterman and all that happened for us this year and we’re really thankful. But, it certainly is not as great as a sold-out show in New York City,” he confessed.

Throughout the 90-minute set, the band showcased its Southern roots with roaring electric guitar interludes, striking banjo and harmonica features, and plenty of foot-stomping rhythms. NEEDTOBREATHE kicked things off with the bass heavy “Oohs and Ahhs,” complete with guitar distortion and Rinehart’s captivating vocals, before “Devil Is Talkin’” continued the energy.

bo and bear rinehart Taylor Swift Tour Opener Brings Southern Rock To Sold Out NYC Crowd

(credit: Annie Reuter)

“We’re a rock band from South Carolina,” Rinehart said before he introduced signature track “The Outsiders.” “I want to introduce you to my brother Bo. He wrote a song that describes us better than anything has. If you know it, sing along.”

During their performance, NEEDTOBREATHE switched effortlessly from high-intensity numbers to bluesy ballads.

Halfway through their set they acknowledged the death that day of Levon Helm of The Band, citing his influence. “We wanted to honor somebody who’s given us something to strive for,” Rinehart said. Then they jumped into a version of The Band’s 1969 hit “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Read an obit: The Band’s Levon Helm Loses Battle With Cancer At 71.

The poignant fan favorite “Keep Your Eyes Open” struck a chord, while the rollicking “Girl Named Tennessee” showcased NEEDTOBREATHE’s Southern flavor. The foot-stomping “Lay ‘Em Down” followed suit, while fans close to the stage got a special treat when guitarist Bo Rinehart jumped onto the floor and performed as a circle formed around him.

“We’ve been on tour for a couple months now,” Rinehart said. “Thanks so much for being here tonight, it means the world to us. A few years ago we played here for 75 record label people, and they were judging us. It feels so crazy for us to be back here.”

The band ended the night to a hushed crowd during an acoustic performance of “Slumber.” With no mic and whispered vocals, NEEDTOBREATHE neared the edge of the stage as the room fell silent. While they may have Taylor Swift to thank for becoming a household name, their true talent continues to shine through.

- Annie Reuter CBS Local