The All-American Rejects’ lanky frontman worked up quite a sweat during the rock group’s vigorous Pacific Amphitheatre show Wednesday night. He rarely stood still and often ended up flat on the stage, stringy hair all drenched.
Since 2003, the Oklahoma-bred band has notched eight Top 40 pop singles (three received alternative radio airplay) and saw its first three infectious hook-laden albums reach gold or platinum status. The latest, Kids in the Street, came out in spring. Produced by Greg Wells (OneRepublic, Mika, Adele), the sound is more expansive (thanks to synths, programming and horns) and less polished than before.
Several tracks feature backing vocals by fellow Sooner State native Audra Mae, Alex Kandel (female vocalist for buzz band Sleeper Agent) and dramatic Russian singer Elizaveta. Lyrically, Ritter ruminates about a self-described “quarter- life crisis” he experienced during a temporary move to L.A., but the overall mood is far from downbeat.
At Pacific, a major chunk of impressive new material comprised the 85-minute, 18-song set. The Costa Mesa venue was slightly over half-full, yet there was no shortage in enthusiasm from high school and college-aged fans. Many of them sang along loudly whenever TAAR dipped into early effervescent hits like “Swing Swing,” “Move Along” and concert opener “Dirty Little Secret.”
Fresh off the plane after a performance at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, Sameer Gadhia and Jacob Tilley of Young the Giant sat down for an interview with us backstage at Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa Sunday afternoon. The show marks the Irvine-based quintet’s largest headlining show to date – nearly 10,000. As Gadhia pointed out during our chat, just a few years ago, when they were known as the Jakes, YTG was performing in small local clubs like Detroit Bar, Hogue Barmichaels and Chain Reaction.
“I’m really excited for it,” he says, speaking slowly and admitting that he’s tired and a little jet lagged. “Just even looking and envisioning it, right now it’s completely empty but imagining it being filled up with all the people that have been seeing us perform since we were the Jakes … I think it’s going to keep us going.”
The last time we checked in with YTG, the band was living in a four-story home in the hills of Los Angeles in December while in the beginning stages of writing songs for its sophomore album which is now due out on Roadrunner Records by spring 2013, Gadhia says. Since then the band has been touring non-stop, but got a quick break from the road to set up at friend and Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger’s Malibu pad for a few weeks to once again dive into songwriting.
Tilley says the band really got the ball rolling while in Malibu and that even though they had been writing through the whole touring process, it was good to have some time to actually focus.
“We’ve just been practicing the new songs in sound check and keeping it going,” he says. “We’re not letting it fall stagnant I guess.”
With the U.S. dates coming to an end with the Pacific gig and only a few festival shows in Canada on the books for the rest of 2012, Gadhia says the band will spend the rest of the year in the studio working on the new album.
Though they came together in 2004 as teenagers just wanting to play music for fun, Tilley says that the band has grown substantially in the last couple of years.
“We’ve become a lot more comfortable with our instruments and we’ve been exposed to other bands and watching live performances so we’ve learned a lot about space, texture and tonality of things,” he says. “I think the songwriting on the (new) album may stay pretty true to where we were on the last one, but in terms of the sonic spectrum and what we’re more capable of doing now as players, it’s going to step it up quite a bit. I’ve never played the guitar this much in my life. We’re all kind of coming into our own at this point and I feel like we’re becoming a lot more creative.”
Check out more with Young the Giant in our video interview in the player below:
Not that any critic with half a brain would think to do so, but there needs to be a moratorium on any music nabobs comparing Scotty McCreery to his prize-grabbing American Idol brethren. He’s simply not like the rest, and that’s a very good thing.
The fact that men alone have been victorious during the second half of that singing competition’s unstoppable 11-season run is lamentable but also utterly predictable from a show that pretends to be for everyone yet principally caters to teenage girls. For five years now it has produced exciting drama mid-season and totally boring results by the end of finale night, as one bland rocker after another has been crowned champ by viewers, then sent off into the (more or less) real world of pop music to capitalize quickly, then steadily fade from view.
Ironically, edgier (for Idol) stars who didn’t make it to the finals, like Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, are those who have remained on the ascendency, whereas nice guys like Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze are faring no better than Taylor Hicks at maintaining the fan bases they acquired from the program. Phillip Phillips, aka Dave Matthews Jr., is only the latest cute clone to sneak past more promising talents, in this case two powerhouses, Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet, who can sing circles around him.
McCreery, who impressed in his first headlining appearance in O.C., Wednesday night at Pacific Amphitheatre, is so much – and so refreshingly – the opposite of all that, it’s a wonder he emerged from the same contest. He’s straight-up country with zero pop affectations, an instant Academy of Country Music award-winner (albeit for a fan-voted trophy) who ought to be compared not to the David Cooks of Idol but to his fellow Nashville newcomers.
Somehow this one slipped past me when I was gathering up the rest of this week’s new shows, but Sheryl Crowhas been added to Pacific Amphitheatre’s five-week season, with a headlining performance at the Costa Mesa venue slated for July 25.
Crow, who turned 50 last month, is said to be putting the finishing touches on her eighth album, a decidedly more country-tinged collection due later this year. She’s also reportedly writing material for a musical adaptation of Barry Levinson’s nostalgic 1982 flick Diner, with a Broadway debut (under the direction of Tony winner Kathleen Marshall) planned for fall.
Tickets for Crow’s gig, $29.50-$59.50, go on sale Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m., as do two other Pacific performances: We already knew about Steel Pulse teaming with Huntington Beach’s Dirty Heads on July 27, $17.50-$40, but there’s also an ’80s metal night in the mix, featuring Cinderella and Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach on Aug. 3, $17.50-$37.50.
Pre-sales for all of these got underway today at 10 a.m. and will conclude Friday at 10 p.m. Check the OC Fair‘s Facebook page or its Twitter feed for passwords and more details.
Part of this summer’s Pacific Amphitheatre lineup has sneaked out, thanks to the on-sale announcement of the 2012 OC Fair Super Pass — and so far the roster is a mix of chart-busting new talent and tried-and-true bookings.
Seemingly sure to sell out are gigs from breakout O.C. band Young the Giant on July 22 and Nashville boy band Hot Chelle Rae, who appear in a double-bill with Allstar Weekend on July 23. Other likely hot-ticket items are also geared toward ‘tweens, including Australian teenage pop star Cody Simpson on July 21 and the arrival of Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice on Aug. 2.