By Christina Radish
Now in its 21st year, the annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Xmas concerts took over the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif. on December 11-12, 2010. A celebration of the popular bands who captured the attention of listeners throughout the year, the line-up was made up of some of today’s strongest, most compelling musicians that ranged from new bands to reliable old favorites.
Night #1 was the harder-hitting of the two nights, with A Day to Remember, Switchfoot and Anberlin kicking things off, before The Dirty Heads brought their reggae-infused rock to the stage. KROQ regulars Cake, Bad Religion and Jimmy Eat World were next, and were all met by cheers from the audience and the crowd singing along to their recognizable songs.
Up next were My Chemical Romance, fronted by showman Gerard Way with his fire-engine red hair, who kicked their set off with “Na Na Na,” from their most recent release, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” and played a combination of new and old hits. Punk rockers Social Distortion followed, proving why they have maintained a successful career since their formation in 1978. Singer Mike Ness’ brand of undeniably honest lyrics was evident in such favorites as “Story of My Life” and “Ball and Chain,” as well as “Machine Gun Blues,” off of their upcoming January release “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes.” Billy Corgan and his new incarnation of the Smashing Pumpkins closed out the show with newer tracks and new interpretations of older hits “Today” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” accompanies by Australian duo The Veronicas on backing harmonies.
Night #2 was definitely the more eclectic line-up, kicking things off with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Broken Bells (featuring Shins singer James Mercer and artist/producer Danger Mouse), The Temper Trap and Neon Trees. Then, Florence + the Machine took the stage and stole the show. In a flowing white dress, singer Florence Welch looked like an ethereal angel, floating around the stage, belting out soul rock tunes until closing out the set with the quirky “Dog Days Are Over.”
Next to hit the stage was rock duo The Black Keys, whose undeniable blues sound was quite impressive, throughout a set that included their hit single “Tighten Up” and “Chop and Change,” from the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Following that, Brandon Flowers of The Killers took the stage in support of his solo release, “Flamingo.” With a more rootsy sound than his usually more aggressive alter-ego, Flowers even threw in two re-interpreted and stripped down versions of The Killers hits “When You Were Young” and “Mr. Brightside.”
Up next was Vampire Weekend, whose giddy and infectious set included the non-denominational holiday song “Holiday,” currently featured in a Honda Civic commercial that runs seemingly non-stop. Clear crowd favorites, the band’s often cheery and playful music had everyone up and dancing around. Closing out the two-night extravaganza of music was French foursome Phoenix (in photo above), whose atmospheric synth-pop gives their tunes a romantic feel. The band opened with “Lisztomania” and closed with “1901,” both off of their popular album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, book-ending a headlining set that seemed a perfect way to finish off what has become one of the most popular rock music events of the year.
Photos by Christina Radish.