Neon Trees at Ovations Live! Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino Last Night (VIDEO)

Neon Trees
December 14, 2010
Ovations Live! Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino

I never thought one of the best shows I saw all year would be in an Arizona casino.

Even the bands playing last night at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Paper Tongues and Neon Trees, remarked how odd it was they were in a casino showroom, saying things such as, "I have no idea what we're doing here," but they still managed to make the night a very memorable one. Whoever does the booking at the venue is very smart, considering the concert brought a whole new group of people to the spot, and if sound issues can be remedied in the future, the Ovations Live! Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino could become a really cool music venue for indie rock shows such as this.

There were, however, a few kinks, most notably sound issues throughout the night. Apparently both bands didn't have time for a sound check before the show (Neon Trees said it was because they were eating at Green vegetarian restaurant in Tempe -- good choice!), so the groups did impromptu sound checks during their sets. It came across as really unprofessional, but maybe things were beyond the bands' control. Paper Tongues seemed especially annoyed, with singer Aswan North especially complaining throughout their set. (The band later Tweeted, "Despite every technical difficulty imaginable, we had a great night in Phoenix.")

The sound problems weren't really all that noticeable, though. Paper Tongues put on such an amazing set, it rivaled N.E.R.D.'s show opening for Gorillaz back at Comerica Theatre. The seven-piece band plays just about every genre imaginable, from soul and funk to rap and pop and indie rock.

North was a delight to watch on-stage, from his outfit (a Michael Jackson-esque get-up complete with a blinged-out bracelet making for a modern day glove, with a cool hairstyle, chain-studded jacket and tight pants) to his dance moves, which were energetic and frequent. His vocals weren't exactly my favorite when it came to his singing (I preferred the rapping), but his energy was undeniable.

The rest of the band was a diverse group that also put a ton of energy into their set. I sort of wish they had never mentioned the sound problems to the audience and just performed confidently, because North came across a little as a diva, but their music is so catchy, I downloaded it as soon as I got home. Their set was just as great to see as headliners Neon Trees.

Neon Trees had amazing style on their own. Singer Tyler Glenn was like a little kid, enthusiastically running around the stage, making sure to connect with every fan in the room. He wore legging-like pants, white Hi-Top sneakers and his signature mohawk, making him just as fun to look at as he was to hear sing.

The band played for a little more than an hour, with most tracks coming off their debut album,  Habits. For the most part, the group stayed true to the album, but for "In the Next Room," they switched up the song and gave it a more cabaret feel, which was impressive.

The group also played a Christmas track called "Wish List," which was in the same 80's/New Wave-influenced sound the rest of their songs are. It was a fun little timely track that made for a good encore.

Glenn's voice, and the band's musicianship, were top-notch. Every member seemed invested in the set no matter what was going on behind-the-scenes. Glenn jumped on things, got the audience to clap and sing for him and swung the microphone around his neck. It was quite the flashy spectacle, perfect for a casino, and both bands really brought it. Hopefully they'll be back to the Valley soon.

Personal Bias: I own Habits and think it's one of the best albums of 2010. I've never seen Neon Trees live before, though, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
The Crowd: 20- and 30-somethings who probably listen to 103.9-FM, who sponsored the show.
Overheard in the crowd: "Wow, this is amazing," from the guy next to me.
Random Notebook Dump: I hate when bands play their hit in the middle of the set and not until the end, as Neon Trees did with "Animal". Everyone for the most part seemed to stick around, though.
Set List:
Love and Affection
In the Next Room
Your Surrender
Calling My Name
Sins of My Youth
Wish List
Farther Down

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Nicki Escudero
Contact: Nicki Escudero