Florence and The Machine, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie Accentuate Radio.com’s Not So Silent Night (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Florence and the Machine

December means one thing for music lovers in many major cities: holiday concerts. On December 6th, Alt 92.3 — New York City’s recently reborn alternative rock radio station — delivered a jam-packed, sold-out concert at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center that would’ve been a formidable single-day lineup for a major music festival at Radio.com Presents Not So Silent Night.

The lineup spanned a soundscape as varied as CHVRCHES’ exuberant synth pop, Mike Shinoda’s unmistakable rap/rock hybrid, Florence and the Machine’s soaring baroque pop and Muse’s sci-fi inflected rock.

All in all, Alt 92.3 managed to squeeze in eight performances into a compact five-hour window. And, most impressively, the show ran on time. This feat was achieved by clever stage design. The sets for each artist were prepared on a massive turntable, with one half facing the crowd and the other half obscured backstage. As one artist performed, the technicians were busy preparing the next artist’s rig backstage. And when it was time for the next artist to go, the turntable stage simply rotated for the new artist to perform. This slick trick meant that the intermissions were no longer than 10 minutes.

As is to be expected for this type of show, the sets started out very short (AJR only performed for about 15 minutes) before giving way to more substantive performances that were closer to 50 minutes for artists like Muse and Florence and the Machine. And the level of the audience members’ response varied depending on who they were waiting to see, although pretty much every artist had well-known hits to rely upon even for more casual fans.

AJR

New York City’s very own AJR kicked the evening off with a little music lesson. The group explained that they record in their own living room, and gave the audience a taste of some sonic experimentation. The band then launched into their funky hit “Burn the House Down,” with lead vocalist Jack Met bouncing with trumpet player JJ Kirkpatrick.

CHVRCHES

Next up: CHVRCHES. The Glaswegian synth-pop outfit gave a taste of their newest record, Love Is Dead, kicking off their set with defiant single “Get Out.” Throughout the performance, lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry proved to be a dynamic spark plug, spinning across the stage on “Miracle” and hyping up the crowd on “Clearest Blue.” As the latter reached its crescendo, Mayberry threw her arms in the air to the throbbing bass drop. “We’re efficient,” she quipped during a brief break in between songs. “20 minutes, out!” The band wrapped up their set with their very first single,”The Mother We Share,” as Mayberry got the crowd clapping along to the opening beat.

Mike Shinoda

Mike Shinoda emerged next and wasted no time in showing love to fans of his Fort Minor hip-hop project, leading off with hits “Remember the Name” and “Where’d You Go.” Of course for the Linkin Park member, the loss of Chester Bennington still influenced the set. The crowd roared to life as Shinoda teased, “Linkin Park fans, we in the building right now?” Shinoda explained that he was inspired by how Brooklyn still celebrates Notorious B.I.G.’s life and music, even in death.

And in keeping with the theme of honoring his late bandmate, Shinoda led a touching tribute with “In the End,” as the audience collectively filled in for Bennington’s vocals. Next, Shinoda mashed up “Good Goodbye” with “Bleed It Out”, before closing out with his solo single “Running from My Shadow.” As Shinoda gazed towards the rapt crowd, a smile grew on his face as it seemed apparent that a little piece of Bennington lived on with all the fans singing along to Linkin Park. And on the final track, Shinoda hopped offstage and over the barricade, high fiving and embracing everyone in arms’ reach.

Bastille

Next, Bastille continued the trend of getting up close and personal with the crowd. Then lead vocalist Dan Smith took it to another level. On “Flaws”, Smith ran offstage, wading into the general admission section and even making it through parts of the lower bowl’s seated sections. Everywhere he went, he got the crowd jumping along with him.

And of course, the band saved their massive hit “Pompeii” for last. Smith began the song with a slow, minimalist intro on the keyboard before the full band kicked in. Buoyed by their anthemic backing vocals, Bastille proved why “Pompeii” remains perfect for arena singalongs. Smith even periodically added in his own drum beat to the booming track.

Foster the People

Foster the People hit the stage after, kicking things off with their single “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” from their debut studio album Torches. The L.A. rockers relied on some key throwbacks from that record, with lead vocalist Mark Foster leading a suave dance break on “Houdini” and orchestrating a massive singalong for “Pumped Up Kicks.” On the latter track, Foster spun the mic stand around to face the crowd, and let the screaming fans take care of the chorus. Elsewhere in the set, the band used some colorful visuals promoting their latest record, Sacred Hearts Club, on songs like “Lotus Eater” and closer “Sit Next to Me.”

Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie

Due to the set time constraints each faced, many artists on the bill emphasized rocking through their shorter tracks for the audience at large. Death Cab for Cutie bucked this trend during their performance, opening with the expansive, full version of “I Will Possess Your Heart”, led by Nick Harmer’s low-key bass riff. DCFC took fans on a fairly comprehensive trip through the band’s entire discography, breaking out tracks from Plans, Narrow Stairs, Transatlanticism, Kintsugi and this year’s Thank You for Today. To close out the set, lead singer Ben Gibbard honored Pete Shelley by dedicating a bittersweet rendition of “The Sound of Settling” to the late Buzzcocks member.

Florence and the Machine

After DCFC’s mostly subdued set, Florence and the Machine burst onto the stage with a rollicking rendition of “Ship to Wreck.” Throughout the performance, lead vocalist Florence Welch proved masterful at commanding the entire audience’s attention, leaping in bounds and twirling across the entire stage to engage with all sections. After recent single “Hunger”, the band paid tribute to another legend of the New York City music scene, Patti Smith, with the slow-burning track “Patricia.” As Welch held up her fist, she roared, “You’re a real man, and you do what you can / You only take as much as you can grab with two hands” — in a cutting bit of commentary given today’s sociopolitical climate.

Afterwards, the band shifted back towards a message of love and hopefulness with the spirited “The Dog Days Are Over.” Welch implored everyone to put away their phones (with a polite British accent if necessary) and “turn to each other and embrace each other.” As the song reached a lull in the middle, Welch encouraged the crowd to “jump as high and as long as you can” to release any bad vibes or just sent love into the world. As she launched back into the song, Barclays Center shook as thousands of fans jumped in unison, from the front row to the rafters.

For “What Kind of Man”, Welch then hopped off the stage, strafing along the barricade and embracing the audience in the front row. Afterwards, she said, “We have one last request: Will you be our choir for this evening?”

The crowd gladly obliged, singing along to “Shake It Out.”

Muse

Finally, Muse took the stage for the final set of the evening. The band emerged rocking a ton of light-up attire and instruments, leaning into the sci-fi aspect of their sound and visuals. Lead singer Matt Bellamy donned a jacket and glasses with embedded LED lights that changed colors and patterns; Chris Wolstenholme played a bass with similar lights on its frets; and Dominic Howard mashed certain parts of his drum kit that lit up when hit.

And on “Break It to Me”, Bellamy showed off his guitar wizardry with one of his special Manson guitars with a built-in MIDI screen controller. Throughout the set, he proved to be a dynamic leader of the show, whether he was kneeling centerstage to deliver a searing guitar solo on “Psycho” or knocking over his monitor on “Supermassive Black Hole.” The crowd jumped along to “Time Is Running Out” after, but saved some energy for the final song of the night.  

Muse put a bow on the night with a boisterous performance of “Knights of Cydonia.” Wolstenholme led this version with slow-burning harmonica intro, tossing the instrument into the crowd as the band launched into the track in earnest. As Bellamy pumped his fist, the crowd followed his lead during the anthemic chorus. As the band departed the stage, Bellamy yelled, “See you in MSG next year!” With that date officially confirmed, Muse gave plenty of NYC fans a sneak preview of what they have to more to look forward to live in 2019.

 

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