Last night Foster The People were joined by openers The Kooks and Kimbra for a wildly varied show at Central Park in New York City. As the sun set, and the sound engineer took a nap, the three acts were met with a playful crowd of boozed-up bros and pre-teens, in one of the more odd crowd demographic I've seen of late. It's Foster's last tour on their debut album Torches, but it's also a lot of firsts for the young band.
Kimbra and her band ripped through tunes from her recently released in the US album Vows, but the outdoor setting filled with indifferent chatter and a strange audio mix didn't do her justice. That's a shame, because her backing band is one of the best in the business, and her live performance has been one of our most affecting discoveries of 2012.
The Kooks took the stage with their usual love-drunk swagger, and it was clear a large portion of the crowd had come just to see them. Classics like "Ooh La" inspired panic and sing-alongs. Pretty much exactly how we expected this portion of the evening to go.
It's worth noting Rumsey Playfield has played home to many of-the-moment breakout acts, including a particularly epic and memorable double bill with Passion Pit and Phoenix in 2009. Foster The People -- a relatively unknown band this time last summer -- felt the heat of a meteoric single in 2011 propel them towards an SNL performance and two Grammy nominations. Their fusion of contemporary rock and electronic elements is noted as a rather odd trend in today's popular bands who write their own material-- simply being a "rock band" isn't enough to break into the mainstream anymore. And with Kimbra added to the bill, this was starting to feel like another Pit/Phoenix memorable moment in musical conversation, one elevating the other to the same level of conversation. Kimbra even came out to perform "Warrior," her sponsored collaborative effort with Mark Foster and A-Trak (absent).It's a perfect slice of radio-friendly pop-rock that won't make you want to jump off a cliff.
But Foster The People are still a bit green -- the Phoenix comparison is unfair, those guys have been in the business for over ten years -- and their experimentation with song-obscuring musical intros occasionally served to remind us that the beginning of every song sounds the same. Still, the band recognized two important things: one, that a large majority of the crowd came for and stayed for "Pumped Up Kicks," and that the bare-bones "Kicks" is an awfully boring closing piece. So in what surely will become the norm, they took their own song and remixed it live on stage, making good use of the strobes they constantly cling to in their live performance.
It was a lot like this:
But we'll always be partial to that good old fashioned Mark Foster that we captured at Music Hall of Williamsburg, shoulder shrug and all.