I won’t lie, I went to the gig without any major expectations. Whilst I own and like their three albums, I’m not a regular listener and only agreed to go tonight because my sister wanted to go.
Supporting was Mikky Ekko, real name John Stephen Sudduth, an American singer songwriter who was unknown until he hit the big leagues with his Rihanna collaboration ‘Stay’. The first few songs grab my attention, he has a great voice and the songs have a rockier edge that I wasn’t expecting. The problem is that the songs begin to blend into one. Alone they are promising but there is very little to distinguish them from each other and after the first few songs the crowd becomes a little restless with the majority heading for the bar or pulling out their phones. The high point of his set was predictably ‘Stay’, but once that’s over the audience loses its energy as fast as it was gained and Mikky Ekko thanks the audience, leaving the stage with relatively little fanfare.
Whilst OneRepublic have enjoyed moderate success with their first two albums, particularly their debut Apologize, it’s their newest offering that has really put them on the map. Frontman Ryan Tedder is no stranger to top 10 hits – as a songwriter and producer he has worked with artists like Adele, Ellie Goulding, Gym Class Heroes and Maroon 5 to name a few. But he has never quite emulated his success behind the scenes as the frontman for OneRepublic. Until now. Whilst Counting stars was a slight departure from their usual sound, change was rewarded with a No. 1 in the UK, No.2 in the US and top 10 in 20 countries. So it’s with this new found success that they step on stage tonight to a sold out show.
They kick their set off performing ‘Don’t look down’, one of the lesser known album tracks from Native, from behind a curtain. It is a slightly odd start to the show as the song is more of an interlude rather than the song to start the set like you mean business. As they move straight into ‘Light it up’ the curtain drops and the stage is finally revealed. Straight away you can tell that this is a band that have paid their dues on the road and know how to put on a show. The lighting is worthy of an arena much larger than the venue it fills tonight with Tedder managing to bounce light off a mirror as a spotlight on individual members of the audience in the sitting area. Many bands focus on the standing area and tend to forget the people they can’t see right in front of them. Not this band – it’s clear they know how to command a stage much larger than this.
About half an hour into the set and a curtain falls, momentarily confusing the audience before their full on stage show is stripped back to an intimate acoustic gig. Performing ‘what you wanted’ and one of their most popular songs ‘stop and stare’ they have the audience eating out the palm of their hand.
While the rest of the band got set up behind the curtain, their guitarist shows off some skills with a flamenco style guitar solo, complete with loop pedal ‘guitar banging’. Something that really strikes you about this band is that they are proper musicians. Every other song someone switches from a guitar to a cello or violin – these are not some guys who thought it would be fun to just start a band – there is serious skill here. The guitar solo moves into the opening riff of ‘Counting starts’ and the audience understandably starts to go a little crazy as they start the next high octane part of their set.
Whilst their set is predominantly showcasing the new album they make sure to keep in old favourites such as ‘Good life’ and ‘Secrets’, before ending their set with ‘I lived’.
Their encore is entirely made up of new songs. ‘Feel again’ and ‘Life in colour’ are sandwiched around ‘Burning Bridges’ which was not originally on the set list – someone shouted it from the audience with Tedder replying that since he could remember the words they would make it a last minute addition.
The grand finale is ‘If I lose myself’, which has recently been rereleased as a collaboration with Swedish DJ Alesso. This is by far the best song and production of the night, from the entire band’s synchronised drumming and the elaborate light show the show ends on an ultimate high.
The set was a little short for a band with three albums under their belt, it was more of a highlights package, but if it was designed to leave you wanting more then it succeeded – I’m now off to see then next week at the Royal Albert Hall. I might have had my reservations about tonight but they are probably the best band I have ever seen in a venue this size, definitely worth checking out.