Foster the People, Comerica Theatre, 7/6/12

Foster the People Comerica Theatre Friday, July 6, 2012

See also: Foster the People at Venue Scottsdale Foster the People played to a packed house at Comerica Theatre last night, along with opening act Kimbra and Detroit's Mayer Hawthorne and the County.

New Zealand singer Kimbra (you know her from that Gotye hit "Somebody That I Used to Know") opened the show with "Cameo Love", a soulful, funky pop song that the crowd really got into, and she continued with "Two Way Street" and "Old Flame." She had no problem pushing the limits of how much synthesizer one person can tolerate in a single performance. She seemed a bit erratic on stage, and her flower print dress bordered on distracting, but she was daring enough to perform "Settle Down", a song she claimed was still being worked out for live shows. But it worked out, and she wrapped up her set with "Come Into My Head." Her 30-minute set could have been much longer.

Following Kimbra was Detroit soul revivalist Mayer Hawthorne, backed by his band The County. My initial response was, "Wow. A guy who looks like Topher Grace but sings like a young Michael Jackson?"

One can't help wondering if this re-emergence of soul is a passing phase, much like the swing craze of the late '90s. If Hawthorne is a star in the genre, I certainly hope not. Hawthorne is a force to be reckoned with on stage, and the crowd really connected with him. He opened with "A Long Time", moving through "Finally Falling" and "Stick Around." The crowd went wild when he took a picture with his back to the audience while sitting in a cigar chair. The highlight of his set was "The Walk", a song Hawthorne proclaimed to be about an ex-girlfriend who "was a total bitch." Hawthorne closed the set with "Henny and Gingerale," diving into total funky awesomeness.

The crowd descended upon the pit in front of the stage for Foster the People. All of Comerica Theatre was on its feet when they finally took the stage, opening with "Miss You." The show was visually overwhelming, with lighting that bordered on convulsive as the group moved frantically through "Helena Beat" and "Waste."

Vocalist Mark Foster is clearly someone who loves performing for the crowd. I got the sense he is grateful for his fans, but at times he seemed a bit unsure of himself, and he had a tendency to ramble, even when the band was trying nudge him into the next song.

The band performed a new song written with fellow touring act Kimbra, titled "Warrior", bringing the act back on stage to accompany them before delving into "Houdini" and encoring, for lack of a better word, "Ruby." The band closed with their megahit "Pumped Up Kick," bringing on Mayer Hawthorne to accompany, and showering the entire crowd with confetti from above.

I've seen plenty of shows at Comerica Theatre but Foster the People seemed to be more than the venue could handle musically, often hitting notes too high to be absorbed acoustically. The show would have benefited greatly from a larger venue but overall, but given Foster the People's history in Phoenix, playing the Sail Inn, then Venue Scottsdale, now Comerica, it isn't hard to imagine that next time they'll be playing a full-size arena.

Set List: Kimbra "Cameo Love" "Two Way Street" "Old Flame" "Settle Down" "Come into My Head"

Mayer Hawthorne "A Long Time" "Finally Falling" "Stick Around" "No Strings" "I Wish it Would Rain" "Dreaming" "Maybe So Maybe No" "The Walk" "Henny and Gingerale"

Foster The People "Miss You" "Helena Beat" "Waste" "I Would do Anything for You" "Love" "Call it What You Want" "Warrant" "Warrior" "Houdini" "Pumped Up Kicks"

Critics Notebook: Last Night: Foster The People with Mayer Hawthorne and The County and Kimbra Personal Bias: I really wanted to see Mayer Hawthorne. The Crowd: Almost entirely under 30 Overheard: About Mayer Hawthorne- "They're like Ray Charles, when he started to suck." Random notebook dump: Why am I the only one sitting down?

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Richard Noel
Contact: Richard Noel