Thursday, August 23, 2012

Neon Trees light up Altar Bar - Timesonline.com

PITTSBURGH -- Question: If a Neon Trees fan fell in Altar Bar on Wednesday would he or she have made a sound?

Answer: Ha! Trick question.

Fans were wedged so tightly into the Strip District club, there wasn't room enough to fall.

Except for the small patch near the lobby obscured from the stage by a wall displaying $25 concert shirts, the floor, stairs and balcony of Altar were packed, a testimony to the escalating popularity of Neon Trees, the Utah-based, California-originated pop-rock band riding high on the charts with the single "Everybody Talks."

Three years ago, on their last Altar Bar visit, the crowd was much more sparse, said charismatic frontman Tyler Glenn, with his brushed forward, dyed blond mohawk, rocking a sleeveless white T-shirt with studs on the shoulders. Flanking him were guitarist Chris Allen and bassist Branden Campbell. Drummer Elaine Bradley wasn't there, having given birth a few weeks earlier, though her fill-in John Buckner didn't miss a beat.

Neon Trees launched the sold-out show with the New Wave-ish "Moving in the Dark" and "Teenage Sounds," lead-off cuts from their current album, "Picture Show."

Glenn craved an immediate connection with his Pittsburgh crowd.

"I'll let you in here," he said, tapping his head, "if you let me in here," he continued while tapping his heart.

Seemed like a fair enough deal, with Glenn holding up his end of the bargain with pronouncements like "I'm 28, and I don't pretend to know everything," prior to the band playing "1983" and how he felt like he was back at his school's talent show as he sat behind a keyboard to perform solo on "Your Surrender."

That solo showcased his impressive vocal range, which was trickier to discern on some of the night's louder songs, especially early in Neon Trees' 75-minute set. The few dozen fans who had scored a seat for the band's stripped-down, two-song performance that afternoon at WXDX-KISS FM's studios can certainly vouch for the power and prowess of Glenn's pipes.

However, the mix seemed more balanced for the latter part of the Altar show.

It was the final night on the tour for opening acts 21 Pilots and Walk the Moon, whose band members celebrated with a dual surprise visit on stage, providing percussion and prodding the crowd to sing along as Neon Trees whipped through its 2010 breakout hit "Animal."

The final encore song was prefaced by Glenn telling fans that there always will be people in their lives trying to tear them down. The solution is to physically remove such people from your life, which will give you an instant lift, he said, as the band, on cue, charged into the buoyant, Strokes-ish "Everybody Talks." Glenn playfully held a finger to his mouth in the "Shh" position to punctuate the "It started with a whisper" line.

It was a concert without dull patches, a testimony, too, to Walk the Moon and 21 Pilots, whose friskiness on this final tour date also prompted surprise stage visits during each others' sets.

Cincinnati-based Walk the Moon, best known for the alt-rock hit "Anna Sun," had an engaging, enthusiastic Killers-ish vibe. Singer Nicholas Petricca said his band had asked their tour mates if they had any special song requests for the farewell show, resulting in Walk the Moon's rousing, slightly rockier take on Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal."

Twenty-One Pilots, a pop duo composed of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, were a bundle of energy and unabashed fun, concocting a set that included a snippet of Rihanna's "We Fell in Love," a reggae-rap reminiscent of Matisyahu and a cover of "Shout" that was like Otis Day backed by Cobra Starship.

For that latter song, fans merrily flung their arms skyward for the "make me want to SHOUT" part, but they didn't try the more advanced move of dropping to the floor and flailing around on their backs, a la "Animal House."

They were packed too tightly together, remember?

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