Friday night at a sold-out Verizon Wireless Theater, LIGHTS and Owl City put on surprisingly solid performances. We use the word 'surprisingly,' because we fall into the category of people who oftentimes dismiss these kinds of artists as sans-substance pawns of the industry without giving them much of a chance. We're not the biggest fans of electro-pop, and we've heard all the talk of Owl City being a carbon copy of the Postal Service, but we listened, we watched, and overall we were impressed. The people in attendance were what we expected. As we walked into the venue, we saw about a 60 to 40 percent ratio of kids to parents. The kids were wearing skinny jeans, pearl snap button downs, wool caps (in April!) and constantly checking their smart phones for tweets, texts and calls. For some of them, it looked like more of a nervous tic than a habit. From the waist down, we couldn't tell the gender of most of the fans. Thanks a lot, skinny jeans. And because we didn't want to end up on To Catch a Predator, we didn't make eye contact with anyone. Long story short, we stuck out like a sore thumb.
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Before the show, we made our way to the loading dock for an interview with LIGHTS, whom we're glad we researched, because she was far from what we expected. "We always look forward to coming here," she said with a smile. "Everyone [in Texas] seems to really love music." Sitting on the opposite couch from us on her tour bus, LIGHTS leaned forward, smiled and charmed our pants off (no, not literally). She was accommodating and polite - which, from what we hear, isn't the norm amongst pop stars. She came across as genuine and wasn't just feeding us nonsense that her record label told her to say. "I understand that it's easy to misconstrue a female pop artist as kind of a puppet and just really fabricated," LIGHTS said with a confident smile while discussing her acoustic YouTube videos with us. "So it's cool for me to show people a more raw side of it to say, 'This is actually what's there. Don't be fooled if there is some production on it.'" Her acoustic sessions are our preference, but that's not to say that her CD or shows aren't worthwhile; in fact, quite the opposite. "I look young, and I'm a girl, and whether or not people admit that they make judgments based on those things, you can feel it," LIGHTS says about those who underestimate her. "I've learned to not act out about it." Instead, she proves them wrong, as she did with us. "There's something to be said about earning the respect of someone who doubted you," she said. LIGHTS is a smart, young lady, and we were impressed by her performance (as she told us we would be) and now officially consider keytars sexy.
Her act, unlike that of many Auto-tune honeys, was pleasing to the ears, and we could actually understand what she was saying. In Ice, she even makes a Vanilla Ice reference, which as far as we're concerned earns her major kudos. The girl's got pipes... and while her CD is electro-pop, her live performance and her acoustic YouTube videos really showcase her talent as a vocalist, songwriter and guitar/keyboard player. Doesn't sound like your average run-of-the-mill pop star, does it? Many of her lyrics, taken at face value, aren't all that deep, but her music is fun and definitely uplifting compared to what most teenage girls listen to. She doesn't blatantly condone or promote premarital sex, drug use or tell young girls that their tits give them power. We're not parents, but we still appreciate that. As Owl City's set list started, the boys and girls in the crowd began to scream at the same pitch, and a few parents were bobbing their heads - at which point, of course, their kids gave them the "stop it, you're embarrassing me" look. We even saw one mother who looked like she was at a Poison concert. Rock on, mama! It seems that Adam Young has received some voice lessons since his rise to superstardom, and surprisingly he managed to hit most of the notes that we thought were auto tuned not for effect, but because he didn't have the range. We were wrong. After "Fireflies," the mood darkened and Ronald Reagan's famous speech about the explosion of the shuttle Challenger played as Young lightly keyed the piano. He kept referencing space and rockets - "Houston, we do not have a problem," he said early on during his performance - which we appreciated, but we also couldn't help but feel that he could have tried a little harder. There's much more to Houston than NASA, and a quick Google search will tell you that. Besides, he's been here before. We felt it was a bit out of place and, either because of disinterest or maybe curfew, many of those in the crowd began to head toward the exits. We stuck around until the end. We may not be the musicians' niche audience, but you can't argue with success. And as far as content goes, what's wrong with a little happy, upbeat pop music from time to time? Nothing, that's what.