KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas
The holiday concert extravaganza season has begun, and KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas is the first out the gate, offering two nights of the long-running rock station's most popular and most played artists this weekend. We attended night one, on Saturday, which included Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, Vampire Weekend, Cage the Elephant, Arctic Monkeys, Group Love, and Foals. It was a varied, well-paced show, one that had great moments, as well as some lulls, along the way.
This event was previously at the Gibson Amphitheater, but since it's now closed, the show moved to the Shrine downtown, a curious change considering the Shrine usually showcases more eccentric stuff. For those who've been to previous Almost Acoustic shows, the room didn't capture the yuletide flurry of its former Citywalk adjacent locale, even with all the Christmas lights outside.
One problem was that none of the procession of bands -- who changed over quickly thanks to a rotating stage -- really referenced the holiday season in their sets. Gone are the days when Gwen Stefani came out in a red ribbon dress singing "Oi To The World." And that's too bad. And of course, nobody played anything even slightly acoustic. The name is almost a joke at this point, but we would have loved to see some unplugged performances.
The only time anyone did anything even slightly novel was when Arctic Monkeys went into a metal interlude, channeling some Black Sabbath riffs. The Monkeys were in fact, the most charismatic band there. Lead singer Alex Turner really worked the crowd and re-worked some of the band's music. Their hit "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," for example, had a subtle tempo change that worked. Really everything they played did.
Other highlights included Cage the Elephant, whose set was high energy and hook-filled; AFI, who represented the anthem-y metallic programming that KROQ still employs; and Queens of the Stone Age, who took the show to heavy heights with their ironic cool vibes on hits like "Feel Good Song of the Summer" and "No One Knows."
Queens of the Stone Age was so beefy musically that it was a real downer when the stage spun around for Vampire Weekend. They came off utterly wimpy by comparison, in their stone-washed jackets, performing before a strangely feminine vintage floral pattern on the big screen behind them. Mostly, the music felt dated and dull. Their whole bouncy indie-nerd thing was not working, at least not in this context.
To be fair, sponsor-driven, packed-lineup shows like this often present challenges. We've seen headliners Kings of Leon turn out intense, emotionally-charged sets, but we didn't expect them to do that within a 40 minute closing window on Saturday.
Indeed, their first few songs felt phoned-in and we wondered if the show would end anti-climactically. The guys warmed up though, pulling out the hits (yes, including "Sex On Fire") and playing them very well at the very end. The crowd sing-a-longs and perfectly pitched renditions wrapped up the big show like a nice big bow.
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