As the lights dimmed, members of Fullerton rock quintet Lit began to appear on stage, and die-hard fans who turned out at House of Blues Anaheim Saturday night went absolutely bananas. Though the gig wasn’t completely sold-out, this passionate bunch crammed in as close to the stage as possible, clearly ready to have a good time. Surprisingly, a majority seemed to have already memorized lyrics to all of the new tracks off the band’s fifth studio album, The View from the Bottom, just released on Tuesday.
Click here for a photo slideshow of Lit’s House of Blues performance.
Coming out hard with the anthem “The Broken,” vocalist A.Jay Popoff emerged through a side door and sang his way into the pit to get to the stage, flanked by several security guards and a camera guy. Leading off with such a big-sounding new song was a perfect example of how much fuller this band sounds now with the addition of guitarist Ryan Gillmor. Lit thanked the audience on several occasions throughout the performance for celebrating the new album in its home county. As A.Jay put it, the night would be way more of a party than a “professional” gig, so “let’s all get drunk tonight together!”
You could tell this night was special for the band, as members all had Jack Skellington-sized grins on their faces, beaming from ear to ear. Even more stoic guitarist Jeremy Popoff couldn’t help but crack a smile during some obvious high moments.
Since the house was packed with family members and close friends, the group gave several shout-outs: Jeremy to his 10-year-old son Jake, who rocked out in the pews; A.Jay singled out late Lit drummer Allen Shellenberger’s father, who sang along amid the crowd; and bassist Kevin Baldes took a moment to congratulate his parents on 51 years of marriage before blasting into “Lipstick and Bruises.” That track also brought out Mulletron, the mullet-sporting robot which appeared in the song’s music video, something A.Jay admitted was “our most expensive self-indulgence ever in the history of Lit.”
As the band dove into new tracks like “You Tonight,” “C’Mon,” “Same Shit, Different Drink” and “Miss You Gone,” there were people on hand screaming out every last line. The songs fit seamlessly into Lit’s repertoire, getting these fans as excited as older favorites like “Over My Head,” “Zip-Lock” and the loudest audience singalong of all on “Miserable.”
This was definitely a rock ‘n’ roll show, with intensely bright lights, plenty of guitar solos, a half-dozen shots of Jäger and a frontman who makes absolutely no apologies for the animal he becomes once he hits the stage. Call it what you will, but the crowd ate it up, especially the ladies, when 38-year-old A.Jay peeled off his shirt, revealing a physique that’s still very cut. I guess if you look like that, it’s easier to get away with flirty glances toward the crowd and the occasional, totally obvious crotch grab.
“She Don’t Know” and “Here’s to Us” — the latter of which was dedicated to Shellenberger, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2009 — were slow and sincere. During that song a fan handed A.Jay a photo of the band with Shellenberger, which he held up for the crowd to see, then put into his pocket.
On several occasions Lit called for audience participation, and their local devotees eagerly delivered. A.Jay would leap onto the barrier and pass the mic to a fan to finish off a verse or two – sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. The spotlight seems to sometimes make people forget the lyrics, or maybe they just didn’t know them in the first place. One rabid fan belted out “Something to Someone” like he wrote it, prompting A.Jay to comment, “That was badass. You’re hired.”
The band didn’t only stick the crowd with new material, however. They blasted through numerous tracks off 1999’s A Place in the Sun and a handful from 2001’s Atomic and 2004’s self-titled release. Lit ended the main set with “The Wall,” a new cut they had yet to play to a live audience. Following an extremely brief break, they returned for “My Own Worst Enemy,” then treated fans to back-to-back covers. Baldes gave fans the option of either hearing something from Elvis Costello or Iron Maiden. When both songs received equal applause, Lit decided to do each one, delivering a way rocked out version of Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” (technically by Nick Lowe) and a fiery performance of Maiden’s “Wrathchild.”
Second opening act Julien-K, an electronic rock outfit based in Long Beach and O.C. and featuring former Orgy guitarists Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck, delivered a loud, energetic set that got this crowd moving. At times, though, it just felt so over-the-top, especially when Shuck said something like, “As you can see, we’re pretty good.” The band played songs off of its new album, January’s We’re Here with You, including highlights “Breakfast in Berlin” and “Palm Springs Reset,” as well as tracks from its debut, 2009′s Death to Analog.
Local act, We Are the Arsenal has come a long way from some of the smaller stages in town to this show-launching opening set at the Mouse House. Vocalist and guitarist Ryan Terrigno came off like a natural, diving into a few of the band’s better tracks, “Ghost Town” and “Machines.”
Photos by Kelly A. Swift, for OrangeCounty.com.
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