AJR Burns the House Down in Albany
“What if we could combine a Broadway show, a movie, a magic show and a concert into one weird experience?”
This was the question that indie pop trio AJR posed to themselves before coming up with the ideas that would become the “OK Orchestra Tour.” The elaborate production that was presented at the Times Union Center on Thursday night was the culmination of several years of planning and execution. It was also the reason that the concert had to be moved from the Palace Theatre to the Times Union Center. The enormous video walls that are the backbone of the production would not fit on the Palace stage. The decision was made 72 hours before showtime and the staff at the TU did an incredible job pulling off the switch.
When the house lights went out and the video wall sprung to life, a 3D face appeared on the screen to introduce the show. AJR hit the ground running with “Bummerland” off of their most recent release OK Orchestra. Lead singer Jack Met bounded from one end of the stage to the other, spinning like a top and smiling the whole time. The band consists of Jack’s brothers Adam on bass and Ryan on keyboards and ukulele. They are joined on tour by Arnetta Johnson on trumpet and Chris Berry on drums. The song “3 O’clock Things” found Jack Met walking on what appeared to be some sort of treadmill. Along with scrolling video on the screen, it gave the illusion that he was walking through the animations on screen. At one point he was joined by half a dozen clones of himself on the screen, walking in unison. They continued through album cuts and fan favorites including “Weak,” “Karma” and “100 Bad Days.”
A highlight of the show came about when Ryan Met took the mic to center stage and explained how the brothers came up with the sounds they used in their hit single “Bang!” Starting with a single knock on their door, which they sampled and modulated, he moved on to other aspects of the song. It was interesting to get some insight into the making of a hit record.
Ryan then sat center stage at a keyboard and ran through the touching “My Play” which had everyone in attendance singing along. They closed the show with the incredibly upbeat and catchy “Burn the House Down” which saw Jack Met interacting with the video walls, disappearing behind them, only to emerge with a giant, plush mascot sized head.
They emerged for a two song encore consisting of their collaboration with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo “Sober Up” and “Way Less Sad.” The large crowd hung on every word and proved that indie-pop is still alive and well.
Provo, Utah natives The Aces played a spirited ten song set prior to AJR. It is hard to describe their sound. To me they are equal parts Prince, Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey with a rock/funk edge. The propulsive bass of McKenna Petty was reminiscent of older Rick James, just nasty funk. Together with drummer Alisa Ramirez they were locked in pocket all night. Guitarist Katie Henderson’s shimmering leads were a perfect compliment for singer Cristal Ramirez. From the opening notes of “Daydream” Cristal Ramirez had the crowd in the palm of her hand. I am not sure how they do it but they have the ability to simultaneously sound fresh and new, but also like they could have found a home on 80’s radio. “Zillionaire” and “Can You Do” have a definite 80’s 808 type groove. Set closer “Stuck” could and should be a massive hit record. It is an absolute earworm, with a drum beat that reminds me of Sheila E. I say it all the time, and I will continue to say it, get to the shows early and see the opening acts. I was blown away by The Aces and have been streaming them all day. Give them a listen, thank me later.
Brooklyn based Daisy the Great kicked off the night with a tight thirty minute set. Fronted by Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker, the band is destined for good things. Their current single “The Record Player Song” features AJR. The two singers joined AJR during their set for a barn-burning rendition.
Once again, enough cannot be said about just how well the Times Union Staff handled this unprecedented situation. Fans who entered the venue disgruntled over the move found that the seating on the Times Union floor mimicked the layout of the Palace Theatre. Their worries disappeared and they got to enjoy the show the way that the band envisioned.