NEEDTOBREATHE brought their ambitious “CAVES World Tour” home to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. After spending last summer opening for OneRepublic, the GRAMMY®-nominated hitmakers returned to headlining status this fall when they launched their latest tour in support of their ninth studio project, “Caves.”
Joined by a pair of soulful background singers and multi-instrumentalist/auxiliary player Brandon Walters, NEEDTOBREATHE members Bear Rinehart (lead vocals, guitar), Seth Bolt (bass), Josh Lovelace (keys), Randall Harris (drums) and Tyler Burkum (guitar) took the stage at 8:30 p.m. sharp following a lively 50-minute set from alternative band Judah & The Lion. NEEDTOBREATHE’s 2023 tour stop marked the second time the group has headlined the 18,000+ capacity hockey arena following 2021’s sold-out “Into The Mystery Tour,” which resulted in last year’s “Live From Bridgestone Arena” album.
The previous sell-out paved the way for the band’s “CAVES World Tour” to be their biggest live outing yet, and as expected, Rinehart & Co. delivered in spades. While this particular trek often found the hard-to-classify group traversing country territory (Rinehart even traded in his trademark wide-brimmed fedora for a full-on cowboy hat), the tour dispensed plenty of hopeful pop, tender ballads and southern rock, complete with extended jam sessions that make the NEEDTOBREATHE live experience completely addictive.
From the beginning, Rinehart’s steady evolution into the quintessential frontman was evident. The admittedly shy singer seems as comfortable on stage as he’s ever been; and the group as a whole, appears tight both musically and personally — their genuine friendship obvious in their playful stage presence and easy camaraderie.
The acclaimed act seized the stage in a haze of smoke as if emerging from a literal cave, while the album title briefly appeared on the huge LED screen behind them before quickly evaporating in an exhale of mist. Appropriately, NEEDTOBREATHE launched straight into the LP’s guitar-heavy title track, “The Cave.” The dark, introspective selection proved a fitting opener, setting the tone for an evening hallmarked by NEEDTOBREATHE’s best quality: making album cuts sound as if they were tailor-made exclusively for the band’s buzzworthy live show.
Keeping the energy at a fever pitch, “State I’m In” followed with its Beach-Boys-inspired harmonies; along with “Don’t Bring That Trouble,” an enduring concert staple. Running through a string of hits with minimal commentary and massive production, the band doubled-down on their unique brand of rock ’n’ roll for the first half of the concert, only slowing things down for fan favorite “Let’s Stay Home Tonight” and a moving performance of “Who Am I.”
The revered collective creatively paired two barn burners to finish out Act 1, igniting “Riding High” with a lengthy jam session that led straight into new song “Wasting Time,” the latter of which featured special guest Matthew Ramsey from six-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year Old Dominion and a blazing harmonica solo from Lovelace. Another surprise guest came later in the evening in the form of Carly Pearce as she joined the band on stage for “Fall on Me,” with Rinehart on piano.
Midway through their 22-song setlist, NEEDTOBREATHE perched on stools at the end of the catwalk to present one of the night’s most memorable segments. From the tip of the stage, surrounded by fans filling the standing-room-only pit, the five-piece gave a trio of originals their beloved acoustic treatment. Included in the round of stripped-down selections were fresh track “Everknown,” the prayerful “West Texas Wind” and mid-tempo love song “Banks,” which had the crowd singing in unison.
The second full-band portion of the night saw the South Carolina natives rip through one gem after another. Two “Outsiders” tracks made the cut: the career-defining record’s banjo-laced namesake and the spirited “Girl Named Tennessee.”
Later on, Burkum commanded a well-executed cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” and Lovelace tickled the ivories for an extended period while Rinehart disappeared only to materialize soon after on the floor of the arena poised to sing the band’s biggest hit, “Brother.” The charismatic frontman high-fived fans, posed for selfies and hugged strangers as he lapped his way back to the stage while belting the anthem.
A worshipful, musically intricate version of “Multiplied” ensued before the band ended their official set with a surprise for longtime fans — a rare version of “We Could Run Away” from their sophomore effort, “The Heat.”
After exiting stage left, NEEDTOBREATHE returned for an exceptional encore. In the glow of moody lighting, Rinehart reappeared on the top riser for a raw delivery of “Temporary Tears,” the final recording from “Caves.” The ethereal deep cut brings a slice of heaven to earth as it acknowledges the pain of life, while holding tight to the Joy that awaits on the other side.
The soulful selection, which put the spotlight squarely on Rinehart’s guttural vocals and emotional songwriting, had hardly faded to black before the outfit welcomed opener Judah & The Lion back to the stage for “Dreams,” a pop standout from “Caves” that poetically describes both bands’ hard-won rise to headliner status.
While “Dreams” possessed enough unbridled joy to end the night on the highest of notes, NEEDTOBREATHE gave fans the cherry on top — an acoustic version of “Washed By The Water.” Expressing a great deal of gratitude for his parents, who were in attendance, Rinehart introduced the early hit by sharing that when he originally set their story to music, he took it to his bandmates reluctantly, telling them he wasn’t sure if this “Gospel song” he had just written was really right for their band — an ironic anecdote, considering the single has become one of the group’s most cherished offerings.
Gifting Nashville concertgoers with a solid two hours of nonstop music on their global expedition, NEEDTOBREATHE continued their streak of world-class musicianship, making it easy to see why they are repeatedly lauded as one of the best live bands in the business.
As always, $1 from every ticket went to a charitable entity with NEEDTOBREATHE once again partnering with For Others, a foster care focused nonprofit founded by Chris Tomlin and his wife, Lauren. A short text-to-give moment allowed fans the opportunity for additional generosity during the show with Rinehart explaining that all the money raised is funneled directly into the local communities in each city they’re visiting this fall.
While Music City was one of four remaining stops on the first leg, “The CAVES World Tour” will continue well into 2024 with an additional 26 cities already on tap for next spring. International dates are also expected to be announced for next year as the band takes their unmatched headlining show overseas for the first time in nearly a decade.
“The CAVES World Tour” Setlist
Bridgestone Arena // Nashville, TN
November 15, 2023
“State I’m In”
“Don’t Bring That Trouble”
“Let’s Stay Home Tonight”
“Drive All Night”
“Who Am I”
“Wasting Time” (with Old Dominion’s Matthew Ramsey)
“West Texas Wind”
“Fall on Me” (with Carly Pearce)
“Girl Named Tennessee”
“Baba O’Riley” (cover)
“We Could Run Away”
“Dreams” (with Judah & The Lion)
“Washed By The Water” (acoustic)