For the past week, I had obsessively searched Ticketmaster.com hoping a few more tickets would be released for the Neon Trees May 7th show at the Paradise in Boston. I had wanted to see the band since I had first listened to their debut EP “Habits” nearly two years earlier, but apparently not enough to realize they had announced a Boston show back in March.
Each time I searched, I received the same dreaded “Sorry, No Exact Matches Were Found” screen, every ticket buyers worst nightmare. By the morning of the show, I figured I had missed my shot, but I kept searching anyway. At around 11am, two tickets finally popped up. I was in.
I then hit play on their latest album, the long awaited Picture Show. Like Habits, it has a few duds, but it also has moments of pure genius, which come in the form of songs that are infectious, brash, and poignant all at the same time. These songs give Neon Trees the markings of a band that could establish themselves as pop mainstays in the vein of the Killers or All American Rejects. Staying power, however, was the last thing on anyone’s mind as the crowd filed into the packed Paradise.
While I missed the first opener, I did make it in time to see the 45+ minute set from AWOLNATION. I didn’t know much about the band, other than the fact they had built a decent fan base and experienced some mainstream notoriety. They were undoubtedly part of the reason tickets for the show had been so hard to come by.
I walked away very impressed by mastermind Aaron Bruno and company’s performance. They mix elements of the current dance/electronic/whatever you call it with alternative rock and big choruses, and the result is a set of songs that can appeal to a very wide audience, even on first listen. Bruno worked the crowd relentlessly, and he seemed to feed off the energy of the fans in the first few rows. He even jumped in to join them on a number of occasions.
After AWOLNATION left the stage, Neon Trees somehow took 45 minutes to appear on stage. When they did, they did so in style, with lead singer Tyler Glenn sporting a pair of gigantic sunglasses, neon mohawk, and LED-lit mic stand. They opened with the first two tracks from Picture Show,”Moving In The Dark” and “Teenage Sounds.”
The crowd bobbed their heads, and some sang along, but things didn’t really get started until the band broke into Habits’ opening track “Sins Of My Youth.” I must say that I am partial to this song, so it was one of the highlight of the night for me. At one point Glenn grabbed the mic from the stand and dropped to one knee, repeatedly chanting the song’s bridge and asking the audience “would you love me still?” The crowd ate it up.
After a (likely fictional) account of how Glenn had met and subsequently lost his dream girl at their last Boston show, the band launched into their latest single, “Everybody Talks.” The song has achieved its fair share of “commercial” success, having been featured in a recent Buick TV spot, and it was obvious that its huge chorus has already made it a fan favorite.
Following this was another new track, “Mad Love,” which featured Glenn and drummer Elaine Bradley trading lines throughout the song. Shortly afterwards, Glenn picked up an acoustic guitar to strum the chords to “Your Surrender” as the rest of the band left the stage. Unfortunately, the track didn’t translate very well as a stripped-down version, and the crowd started to get restless.
Things soon got back up to speed, as the band continued to focus on songs from their new album, including 80’s throwback “Weekend” and “Lessons In Love”. The new cuts received a solid reaction from the crowd, and the band seemed very comfortable playing the new material in a live setting.
None of the new tracks, however, could compare to the sets closing number. As a preface to the song, Glenn commended the fans for being the sole reason why it had somehow hit the top of alternative charts and become inescapable over the past two years. As soon as the quintet played the opening notes to “Animal”, everyone in the building basically went crazy, and continued to do so until the band walked off stage.
While they had already played what is obviously their biggest hit, Glenn and Co. returned for the obligatory encore, a treat in the form of Habits “1983”. While the set had lasted just over 60 minutes, Neon Trees has successfully appeased fans by playing a mix of very familiar tracks from their debut album, along with the strongest materials from Picture Show. Glenn performed with the energy of an unknown singer on a festival stage – absolutely determined to give the crowd a reason to come back. Whether they continue to enjoy the same mainstream success that “Animal” has provided remains to be seen. Either way, the fans in attendance at The Paradise are sure to come back for more next time the band is in town.
While most people do a top twenty, I couldn’t come up with 20 records that deserved to be on such a list, so here is the second half of my 2010 Top 17. Look for 1-10 in the next day or two.
11. Envy on the Coast – Lowcountry
The best record that no one listened to this year, Lowcountry suffered from awful distribution and the band’s unfortunate implosion. Despite all of this, the album successfully manages to strip away the extra layers that at times bogged down 2007’s Lucy Grey, and helps the band to go out on a high note.
12. The Wonder Years – The Upsides
When I get depressed and think about how much I hate the daily grind, I just put on this album and let The Wonder Years do the complaining for me.
13. Neon Trees – Habits
How did this 8 song mini-album make the list? Well, two reasons really. “Sins of My Youth” and “Our War.” These two songs show why this band could be rock’s next big thing, if they aren’t already.
14. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
I give this one bonus points solely because it isn’t The Black Parade Pt. 2. I also admit that this record has some great tracks, including “The Only Hope For Me Is You,” which is one of the strongest songs the band has written. However, we had to wait four years for a record that is not nearly as good as the two records that preceded it.
15. Senses Fail – The Fire
While they probably didn’t win over too many new fans, it was another solid addition to the Senses Fail catalog, and featured some of their best work, including “Landslide,” which is one of the best songs of the year.
16. Hollerado – Record in a Bag
After winning me over with their live show, I purchased the appropriately titled “Record in a Bag,” which does, in fact, come in a confetti-filled zip-lock. While it doesn’t shine in the lyrics department, the songs sure are fun.
17 – Free Engery- Stuck on Nothing
If there is a California sound, Free Energy embodies it perfectly. This record features a handful of sunny, bouncy tracks that beg to be blasted through the speakers while driving with the top down (in the convertible I don’t have). However, it also features quite a bit of filler, which is why it’s at the bottom of this list.