Icona Pop, K.Flay, Sirah Fitzgerald's August 21, 2013
Twice this year I have gone to major music shows where someone has thrown on Icona Pop's breakthrough single "I Love It" and thousands of people have lost their minds. It's one of those infectious tracks that a lot of people just can't resist, and the sight of so many people jamming to it is pretty impressive.
There's something risky in going to see a group on their first headlining tour, much in the same way there's something risky about going to see a group with one megasingle to their name. With only a handful of their songs and not a lot of experience in the headliner spot (at least in the U.S.), it wouldn't be crazy to wonder if the Swedish duo was up to the challenge of putting on a good show.
There were not thousands of folks packed in to Fitzgerald's Wednesday night, but there were times when it felt that way. Icona Pop may not be playing arenas yet, but they bring an arena feel to their shows.
Yeah, it's safe to say they got this.
They've got lights, and matching outfits, and winning smiles, and great songs, but perhaps the most important thing Icona Pop brings to the table is confidence. They don't just act like they belong on the Fitz stage, the act like they belong on any damn stage they want to play on.
Of course, it helps that they do in fact have great songs. There might not be a ton of them, but the ones they have so far in their career are all pretty good. More importantly, they're not just good in the "these will fill time before we play the song everyone wants to hear" way. While there were those in attendance who just wanted to hear "I Love It" (and weren't afraid to be annoyingly vocal about it), there was also a healthy collection of folks who actually knew most of the songs and were happy to hear them. It's clear they're building a following beyond the big song.
What is interesting about what Icona Pop does on stage, versus most of what goes for touring pop shows these days, is that they're sort of a hybrid live show/DJ act. They sing to backing tracks, but they manipulate those tracks too, throwing on effects and building beats. It's not always easy to see what they're doing, but you hear it, and those sonic manipulations give the tracks some life away from their studio origins.
Still, there is no greater display of confidence, and guts for that matter, then not actually playing the version of the song folks paid money to hear. Yes, most of the recognizable elements of "I Love It" were there when they played it to close their set, but it wasn't a straight run-through of the radio smash.
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This version was a bit funkier, a bit more dance-y, and a bit more out there. They went exploring sonically on the track, as they did with other tracks before, and it was fresh. It's the kind of thing you do two years after a song has been out and you're tired of playing it, but, like I said, Icona Pop has confidence. And guts.
I'm not going to say that Icona Pop are the future of pop music. What captures the ears and hearts of the populace at large is often perplexing. What I will say is that they've got a good thing going here. I don't know if "All Night" will catch on the way "I Love It" did or if anything they do will. I'm not sure it matters. If they don't make it to arenas, they'll bring the arenas with them. And it'll be awesome.
Personal Bias: Icona Pop is one of those bands that proves there really isn't a Rocks Off hivemind. I'm not saying I'm the only one that's a fan, but I do know a couple of folks 'round these parts have an (irrational, if you ask me) dislike of the group.
The Crowd: One of the more diverse I've seen in a while, with youngsters obsessed with taking selfies, middle-aged couples that just wanted to dance, and a couple of sets of older gentlemen out to take in some live music all packed in together.
Overhead In the Crowd: "I might fuck with some tequila tonight," someone on the tour said outside the venue. I wish I could say things like that and not sound like a dork.
Random Notebook Dump: Preshow music was a collection of dance-music hits. Sad that more people were excited for "Backstreet's Back" than "Smack My Bitch Up," but I can't say I'm surprised.
So How Were The Openers? Sirah made the most of her 20-minute opening slot, showing that when she has a mike in her hand she can control the stage. Her songs have some sick hooks and I look forward to exploring her catalog. That said, 20 minutes? Come on, she has a Grammy. (I wouldn't have minded if she actually did perform "Bangarang," but maybe last night's theme was bucking conventional concert wisdom.)
I wish I had dug K.Flay more. It's not that she was bad; it's just that, live at least, her hooks are weaksauce. Still, she brought an energy to the stage that was hard to resist and if she starts attacking the hooks the way she does her verses she should could be something great.
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