Concert Review: Awolnation at Webster Hall
Webster Hall, New York, NY
November 21st, 2011
At some point during this past summer, you undoubtedly heard the unmistakably catchy, electro-pop song “Sail” by California’s AWOLNATION. After all it appeared in promotions for television shows, commercials, even scoring as theme music for UFC fighters. But as the band’s Monday night performance at East Village haunt Webster Hall proved, AWOLNATION won’t have much trouble shedding the ‘one-hit wonder’ moniker.
Their music is difficult to effectively label primarily because it plays so unpredictably. Pop songs laden with catchy hooks transform seemingly at whim into metal riffs, with singer Aaron Bruno switching from melodic vocalist to aggressive screamer using his microphone. But part of the inability to tell what’s coming next is part of what makes an AWOLNATION show so much fun. Their live performance feels like a wild, nonstop party. Perhaps so overwhelmed by the raucous Manhattan crowd (or perhaps a rite of passage at all of his shows) Bruno didn’t waste much time greeting his fans, taking a stagedive with his corded mic in hand during the set’s opener. Unprepared for his landing, the crowd initially embraced the enigmatic frontman briefly, before pushing him back toward the barricade where the venue had no security guards to catch him. And thus, there was Bruno, dropping to the floor of the photography pit like a sack of bricks. But to his credit, the singer never wavered or missed even a note of the song despite the hard fall and the show resumed without a hitch.
While the band manages to successfully find that middle ground between rock and pop music, their major label debut- 2011′s “Megalithic Symphony- simply doesn’t do AWOLNATION justice. Definitively no studio album could rival the intensity on this night, especially evident when watching the band and crowd reciprocate the exchange of energy and admiration for one another.
The 65 minute, 11 song set rang was mostly a fast paced tidal wave of liveliness, alternating between dancing to the band’s brand of alternative pop and headbanging to their harder tunes. In between the two however, the band brought the house down. Said Bruno, “Everyone put your arm around the person next to you. Let’s get strange for a second.” At that point, streaming disco lights paraded around the room as he launched into the slower “All I Need,” certainly a definitive highlight. It was only a matter of time before the lights went low and the familiar keys of “Sail” electrified an already charged up crowd, with Bruno declaring “this anger comes out of love!” The audience erupted chanting the one word chorus in unison, as guitarist Christopher Thorn ripped out an extended, almost bluesy, shredding solo. The dance-heavy “Knights of Shame” would close out a supremely enjoyable show after a short encore encapsulated by crowd chants of “Awol-Nation” prodded the band back onstage for their final number. And after their performance last night, even we, are clamoring for them to come back out- to New York City.
Setlist (courtesy of setlist.fm)
- Jump On My Shoulders
- Guilty Filthy Soul
- Not Your Fault
- Kill Your Heroes
- Soul Wars
- All I Need
- Burn It Down
- Knights of Shame
- Jane Van Arsdale