Harmonies rang out through a transformed Alumni Hall Saturday night, as the Philadelphia natives Good Old War performed beneath an ambiance of blue and orange hues.
The indie folk trio, originating from Bucks County, played a one-hour set, featuring cohesive three-part harmonies in smooth sync with one another.
The set featured mostly original songs, including “Amazing Eyes,” a track from the most recent 2012 album “Come Back as Rain.”
Lead singer Keith Goodwin explained on stage that the song was written “for the little boy,” referencing his newborn son.
With clever hooks to sing-along with, the audience often joined in, and choruses such as, “I’ll just know when it’s right.”
All three members of Good Old War let loose and dropped the structured performance for their trip to Penn State, each displaying his versatility as a musician and a vocalist throughout the show.
Goodwin spoke after the show about the group’s level of comfort playing a set after its fifth year as Good Old War, not to mention his role as lead singer of progressive rock sensation Days Away in the early 2000s.
“There were a couple songs that we threw in there that we did not write down on the set list,” he said. “Our shows are real relaxed. We have a set list, but whatever happens, happens.”
A moveable piece, the band members didn’t stick to one instrument the whole time, either. Tim Arnold, the band’s drummer, also belted formidable range with his display of vocal talent, covering sing-alongs like “Day-O” by Harry Belafonte to get the crowd involved.
Lead guitarist Dan Schwartz wove between acoustic folk picking and crisp walks up and down an electric fretboard, occasionally within the same song.
Aside from his work behind the keys and lead vocals, Goodwin occasionally picked up a guitar himself and took off on a solo.
The set was also mixed with a few well-known cover songs, including “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard, a song which frontman Goodwin said the group had performed at a Penn State fraternity when he was a teenager.
Some audience members were familiar with Good Old War and recalled the band from its previous performances in State College, including a 2008 gig at Sozo, a local venue for the arts.
“Sozo? That was a fun show,” lead singer Goodwin said in acknowledgment of a fan’s reference to the earlier performance.
For others, it was a relatively fresh discovery of Good Old War’s music that drew them in.
Jeanette Wiley (freshman-division of undergraduate studies) said her fondness for a free single by the group, “Can’t Go Home,” was the spark of interest that brought her and her two friends out to see Good Old War live at Saturday night’s show.
“I just think they sound better live, and it’s something I’d rather do on a weekend than necessarily go out,” she said.
Hannah Toombs (freshman-anthropology), who joined alongside Wiley, said she also enjoyed the show after hearing the group live for the first time.
“I liked that they had good senses of humor and good stage personalities,” she said.
The performance from Good Old War, which came as part of the SPA LateNight series for this spring, was what SPA Marketing Chair Megan Mansell considered an effort from the group to diversify the types of acts it booked throughout the year.
“We’ve already done a lot of pop and rap and other genres this year, so we wanted to diversify and do indie folk music,” Mansell (senior-public relations) said. “We’re just really trying to reach out to as many students as possible up here.”