Thursday, August 9, 2012

All-American Rejects, Eve 6 concert review: Costa Mesa, CA

A version of my review originally appeared at

Tyson Ritter could define “energetic.”

The All-American Rejects’ lanky front man worked up quite a sweat during the rock group’s vigorous Pacific Amphitheatre show. He rarely stood still and often ended up flat on the stage floor, 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 CDs reach gold or platinum status. The latest one, Kids in the Street, came out this past spring. Produced by Greg Wells (OneRepublic, Mika, Adele), the sound is more expansive (synths, programming, 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. 
On Wednesday night, 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.” 
Spry tour bassist Matt Rubano (ex-Taking Back Sunday) gave Ritter a partial breather from his usual instrument and a chance to mix it up with people in the front rows. Recent minor hit “Beekeeper’s Daughter” was propelled by lead guitarist Nick Wheeler’s tasty wah wah and talk box effects. The sensual, Strokes-styled shuffle “Fast and Slow” found Rubano and rhythm guitarist Mike Kennerty bopping around.
Ritter recalled playing the Pac Amp six years ago and admitted a longtime affinity for California. Still, he couldn’t resist showing a little hometown pride by asking if there were any “Oakies in the house.”
The snappy, glam rock crunch of “Walk Over Me” was a highlight, with a fresh group vocal coda and the tour keyboardist triggering assorted odd noises. An acoustic segment with just Wheeler and Ritter on the ballad “I for You” was emotionally raw and proved the singer can do more than yelp. Equally poignant was the title track to 2008’s When the World Comes Down and a sweeping, piano-driven “It Ends Tonight.” 
Both bassists’ extended solo duel led up to “Gonzo.” The slow, U2-ish buildup – complete with atmospheric keyboards and dynamic guitar effects – was awesome. For the encores, TAAR emerged with lighted tubes surrounding the instruments. Ritter aimed a flashlight in his face for the fine percolating, nostalgia-themed “Kids in the Street.” The lyrics “I’ll burn both ends ‘til my fire’s out,” could have easily described his actions. Finally, the group saved its most successful single, the robust chant-along “Gives You Hell,” for last.
From the late ‘90s to early ‘00s, Eve 6 made a mighty impression on alt rock and pop radio with a string of hits and pair of highly successful albums. Now the La Crescenta alt-rock trio has re-emerged from an eight-year studio absence with the solid Don Gilmore-produced album Speak in Code (on Westmininster indie label Fearless Records).  
New dance rock-leaning song “Situation Infatuation” launched their 35-minute opening set at Pac Amp. Lead singer/bassist Max Collins specializes in sardonic lyrics and has a cavalier stage presence. Here in O.C., insanely catchy tunes like “Promise,” latest hit single “Victoria,” plus Eve 6 calling cards “Inside Out” and prom favorite ballad “Here’s to the Night,” made up for any perceived shortcomings.  

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