The Killers and M83 Rule Day 2 of Not So Silent Night, 12/8/12
The Killers, M83, Passion Pit, Tegan and Sara, Grouplove, Imagine Dragons
Gil Riego, Jr. M83 at Not So Silent Night on Saturday. Slideshow: Not So Silent Night 2012 photos
Live 105's Not So Silent Night
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012
Better than: The Not So Silent Night lineup from 10 years ago, which featured Moby, Disturbed, Sum 41, Papa Roach, Good Charlotte, Jurassic 5, and the Donnas.
Every year's end brings with it a chance to take stock of what's important in life, to reflect on the good and bad things that have transpired over the past 12 months, to ready a list of resolutions to make sure there's less regret at this time next year, and, last but not least, to take the temperature of alt-rock at Not So Silent Night, Live 105's annual holiday music festival.
As we were reminded of a few times on Saturday by the between-band DJ banter, this was the event's unprecedented second night, and, judging from Friday's report, the station saved the best for last. Over the course of six hours -- at the conclusion of the show at least one attendee wondered aloud what major world changes had occurred while we were inside the arena -- most of the bands on the bill did a good (and occasionally great) job proving that mass-approved "indie" rock can be just a rewarding as the kind that toils away in obscurity.
Granted, "indie," even in quotes, probably isn't the best descriptor for the pair of Las Vegas bands that bookended the night, seeing as how the Killers have been reaching for the rafters from day one (and, perhaps more notably, poked fun at the cool kids in "Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll") and Imagine Dragons obviously have very similar ambitions. Despite playing to a relatively empty venue -- their half-hour set started 10 minutes before the stated show time -- Dan Reynolds led his Dragons through their electro-tinged-rock set like they were the headliners, with a fist in the air and the kind of swagger that accompanies having the highest-charting debut rock album in six years. Unfortunately, while they might be rock's mightiest young soldiers right now, Imagine Dragons don't have much soul, which makes for some pretty empty gestures, regardless of how they loud and dramatic they might be.
Gil Riego, Jr. Imagine Dragons. Slideshow: Not So Silent Night 2012 photos
On the other end of the night, the Killers made sure to put an exclamation point not only on the justification of their top billing, but also on the assertion that they're still as relevant as they were back in the Hot Fuss days. (During which time they were stuck in the middle of NSSN 2004's lineup.) The band's bravado was revealed at the top of the set, as Brandon Flowers and company came out swinging with "Mr. Brightside"-- their biggest and best song, a.k.a. the one usually reserved for the end since, in showbiz, you're always supposed to leave the audience wanting more -- and played all four magical minutes of it with the house lights still up, as if it to prove to the room (and themselves) that great pop songs don't need pomp and circumstance to stand the test of time. And they were right.
Not that there weren't plenty of bells and whistles (mostly in the form of pyrotechnics, as well as some K-shaped confetti) carted out during the nearly hour-and-a-half set, which served as a reminder of the enduringly endearing qualities of arena-pop songs like "Human," "When You Were Young," "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," and "All These Things That I've Done." And even the new ones from Battle Born caused a significant stir in the worn-out crowd, with "Runaways" prompting an appropriate amount of singing along, the ballad "Here with Me" filling the venue with cellphone lights (as well as a few actual lighters), and the title track bringing the night to a triumphant close with fireworks and inspiring lines about getting back on your feet. Flowers is looking sharp and cut these days, and the same can be said of his band's music.
In between the Vegas showmen, the night featured a little taste of this and that, beginning with Los Angeles bounce-rock quintet Grouplove, whose onstage exuberance easily spilled over into the young crowd. Singer-keyboardist Hannah Hooper -- a San Francisco native whose artwork has graced her own band's album cover as well as the Morning Benders' Big Echo -- was the cheerleaderest of them all, pogoing along to a set that was all pep and danceable pop. Though the first single from Never Trust a Happy Song, "Colours," ended the set on a grating note, it was preceded by the highlight, with group-love singalong party anthem "Tongue Tied" finished off with a fine snippet of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)."
Gil Riego, Jr. Grouplove. Slideshow: Not So Silent Night 2012 photos
Next up were Killers tourmates Tegan and Sara, the Canadian sister act whose varied discography is arguably the strongest of everyone on Saturday's bill. But you wouldn't have known it from their seven-song set, which found the Quins struggling with the context's great expectations. It's not as though they haven't excelled in big places before -- take Treasure Island in 2008, for instance -- but things seemed off on Saturday, with Tegan sounding weird sometimes (not to mention flubbing the end of "Walking with a Ghost") and the group (which included Death Cab for Cutie's Jason McGerr on drums) never hitting its stride. That said, the set ended just fine, with slick new single "Closer," which, along with a showing of "Now I'm All Messed Up," helped whet fans' appetite for January's Heartthrob, a disc that the band has described as its "most accessible and poppiest." Here's hoping it all makes sense when they come back to town for their own show.
Gil Riego, Jr. Tegan and Sara. Slideshow: Not So Silent Night 2012 photos
After Live 105 DJ No Name came out in a pantsless Santa suit and declared the rest of the evening clothing-optional, Michael Angelakos and his Passion Pit crew came out and knocked the socks off of the crowd with hyper-catchy squiggle-synth epics from both of their albums. With "Carried Away" acting as the de facto anthem of the night (what's more teen angsty than furiously dancing while singing, "We're all having problems / and we all got something to say"?), the band with the least amount of guitar ironically rocked harder than anyone else. The entire set was a highlight, and the one-two punch of "Sleepyhead" and "Little Secrets" that ended the festivities was pretty much perfect.
Gil Riego, Jr. DJ No Name. Slideshow: Not So Silent Night 2012 photos Gil Riego, Jr. Passion Pit. Slideshow: Not So Silent Night 2012 photos