Not So Silent Night == Oh So Good Music

Ended my work week early on Thursday and went out to Oakland to the Oracle Arena with Julie, Ted, and Claire for Live 105’s Not So Silent Night. In short, a rocking concert on most fronts.

(retyped from memory after a minor setback)

The Oracle Arena is a pretty good venue for concerts; it seems a little smaller than the Shark Tank (aka the hilariously named HP Pavilion) which made it feel more intimate… well as intimate as it can be with a few thousand of your closest friends. We sat about 10 rows up from the edge of the seated area and were just a few seats off centerline so we had a very good view of the whole show.

Oddly enough it was either not sold out or just sold out only to scalpers who could not resell tickets well enough. The row in front of us (and many more) would have been completely empty except for the rotating groups of fans who would come and visit for a set or two then leave. The final group was made entirely up of preppy, high schoolers who only just learned about standing at concerts (“oh stand now? oh sit down now?”) and successfully bought pot but were still so new (and impolite) that they blew smoke forward and down instead of straight up. On top of that, one of the group insisted on taking what seemed like hundreds of (flash) pictures of these two girls he obviously had a crush on. Kids these days, I say.

The opening act was Dizzy Balloon which was a lot more fun than I would have expected. They won a Live 105 contest to play by covering a generally awful song, “My Parachute Won’t Open” which I guess is a song that the morning show on Live 105 is currently making fun of but supporting in that ironic way that’s so in these days. Silly song notwithstanding, their performance was full of energy. You could tell they were having lots of fun and are destined to be a good band if they can perform a few more times and maybe hire someone to work their soundboard to balance their vocals (too low) with the other instruments.

Jack’s Mannequin was up next, and the only song I recognized was the last one… though right now I couldn’t tell you what it was. Their sound was ok, I’m not sure I’m the right audience, though, as I thought it didn’t sound distinct nor their lyrics interesting enough for me.

In a weird turn of events, one of my favorite bands, Franz Ferdinand was one of the smaller bands on the lineup. Franz Ferdinand is a band that they could play any song off their albums and I’d love it. They perform great live — we saw them at a BFD of times gone by — and add a little bit extra pep to their songs when performing vs in studio. It was easy to tell the two songs they played from their forthcoming album because they were the only two we couldn’t sing along to.

I believe at this point they brought on the original singer of the Parachute song who played it acoustically with his guitar and everyone cheered. It wasn’t 15 minutes long, but it certainly felt like it. Hopefully that’s over.

A slight font increase on the little lineup card means we’re in the bigger group with Bloc Party. They didn’t play the single I know from them, “The Prayer” which I was kinda bummed about. I recognized one of their other songs from a CMJ cover cd a while back, but I couldn’t get excited about them. They definitely ignited (get it?) the pot smoking concert-goers with their hard-to-understand lyrics and splashy guitar. I think Ted put it best when he described them as”just another of those bands with the <makes introspective/anguished wailing noise> and the <makes driving guitar motions>”

Now, I really like Death Cab for Cutie. That makes it really hard for me to say that their set was good, but that they didn’t fit the lineup very well. Overdriven guitars aside, they had some trouble working in the arena setting. Also the lead singer felt the need to put the hammer down on crowd surfing… something that probably wouldn’t have happened at a smaller venue, but whatevers. I think their songwriting and lyrics are a lot more introspective than the other bands in the lineup, so even though they played their radio releases and a lot of other good songs some people weren’t as into them as others. Case in point, the woman behind me that I was forced to turn around and tell of because she was speaking at full volume over “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” which is a great song, but very quiet and they performed it with one singer and a solo acoustic guitar.

By the way, yes, I’m that guy. I will turn around and tell you to shut up if you step on my music.

The DJ that spun music in between sets was very good, and his last song before the headliners was a great crowdpleaser and had everyone singing along: A-Ha‘s “Take on Me

The Killers are a great band. They embrace their over-the-top showmanship like no other band. We saw them for the tour in support of their second album, Sam’s Town, and they had just as many (if not more) props onstage. This time it was palm trees and potted plants. The songs off the new album are pretty good; I think it merits a couple more listens. The opening song was their newest single, “Human” which begs the question, is the human/dancer question even valid? I disagree that those two are mutually exclusive. Still, despite the crazy lyrics, it’s very catchy. They played songs mostly in order of infectiousness and ended their set without playing many breaks inbetween. I like to call it the musical equivalent of the “hurry-up-offense” and it’s a good thing they scored the touchdown at the end, because very surprisingly there was no encore.

All in all a fine show to see and hear. I think we’ll keep on the lookout for these bands at smaller venues, but we’ll definitely look for the lineup on this concert next year.

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