Rams Head Live!
Friday July 11, 2014
There may have been plenty of navy pinstripes in Baltimore, Maryland over the weekend, yet Friday night Charm City was awash in a kaleidoscope of neon.
In town for their Pop Psychology Tour, Neon Trees took over Rams Head Live! in the Power Plant district with a show exploding with colors and high-energy melodies. Even with the New York Yankees facing off against the hometown Orioles across Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Trees left no doubt Friday night belonged to the pop rock group from Provo, Utah.
Aaron Tyler Grant
Aaron Tyler Grant brought out his laptop and opened the night with a rhythmic drum and vocal set. Vancouver native Grant, who plays keys, percussion and backing vocals for Neon Trees, warmed up the Rams Head Live! crowd on Smallpools’ drum set with catchy instrumental drum tracks before singing a few tunes of his own. From the side stage Grant’s bandmates took in his performance, with frontman Tyler Glenn playing tambourine on the last song of Grant’s set.
Smallpools, led by keyboardist/vocalist Sean Scanlon, took the stage after Grant and left Baltimore with quite a few new fans with their high energy and catchy made-for-summer music.
With Scanlon, Smallpools consists of guitarist Mike Kamerman (guitar), Joseph Intile (bass guitar) and Beau Kuther (drums). The Los Angeles-based 2 tone quartet amped up the crowd with their melodic performance. The group is touring behind their 2013 Have A Great Summer! EP, and began their set with “Mason Jar”, “No Story Time” and “Over and Over”. The group showed off several new tracks from off their anticipated upcoming full album, “Dying To Live”, “American Love” and “Killer Whales”, a tune Scanlon told the crowd was in reference to the band’s name. When they were first starting out, the group Googled what people were saying about them, and received posts commenting “they keep killer whales in small pools.” The group couldn’t change the band name at that point, so they wrote a song about the experience instead. Closing out with a rousing version of their lead single “Dreaming”, Smallpools energized the packed house throughout their set.
In addition to touring with Neon Trees, Smallpools has opened for such groups as Grouplove, Two Door Cinema Club, Twenty One Pilots, Walk The Moon and San Cisco since getting their start in 2013.
Neon Trees took the stage to a frenzied audience in headlining the night at Rams Head Live. Running through an East Coast swing of their Pop Psychology Tour, this was the Provo pop outfit’s first time playing Baltimore, and they were ready to shine.
When the stage lights flashed on, bleached-blond frontman Tyler Glenn – perched atop the tiered stage in a bright yellow suit with a fuzzy neon green overcoat – came to life and went nonstop through the Trees’ high-energy 14 song set. Performing a majority of their tunes from April’s Pop Psychology, the pop rock quartet blew the roof off the venue, right from the charging opener “Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night)” from 2011’s Picture Show. Throughout their set, the group mixed in a good blend of tunes from their previous two albums, following with “Your Surrender” and “Animal”, the lead single from their 2010 debut LP Habits, as well as three more from Picture Show – “Moving In the Dark”, “Mad Love” and the album’s lead single “Everybody Talks”.
Glenn, who admits he builds off a crowd’s energy, is the ultimate showman, and commands the stage with more flash and substance than anyone living this side of Jagger, if not more than Sir Mick himself.
Boldly charging up, down and across the stage, gripping a polka dot microphone – whether its dancing, headbanging, or crowdsurfing, Glenn is fearless, showcasing his chops as a bandleader and a powerful vocal range. Neon Trees consists of Glenn, Chris Allen on lead guitar and backing vocals, Branden Campbell on bass, and Elaine Bradley on drums and backing vocals.
The group began in 2005, when Glenn followed Allen, his next-door neighbor in Murrietta, California, to Provo, Utah, where Allen was starting college at Brigham Young University. Campbell and Bradley joined later, rounding out the quartet. Glenn was inspired by the neon palm trees in the signage for the famed southwestern food chain “In-n-Out Burger” and named the band thereafter. The act got a big break in 2008, joining Las Vegas rockers The Killers on tour, and since their Platinum single “Animal”, Neon Trees hasn’t looked back.
The group performed another new single, “Text Me In The Morning” then Bradley joined a doo-wop inspired Glenn – holding her own, vocally – for “Mad Love” from Picture Show, then the melodic duet “Unavoidable” from Pop Psychology.
Showing a personal side, Glenn thanked the crowd for supporting the group and welcomed anyone – “any kind, any time” – into the Neon Trees family. While introducing his bandmates – with the quartet there’s David Charles on guitar and Aaron Tyler Grant on percussion – to the crowd, Glenn took time to acknowledge how the past year has changed him as a person – Glenn came out as gay earlier this year in Rolling Stone – and how he loves God and people for the first time in his life. Glenn mentioned the Trees’ next song of the night, “Living In Another World” – the song he wrote about his experiences coming out as gay – he said is his favorite Neon Trees tune.
Playing under a pulsing show of stage lights and through wardrobe changes – and subtractions – Glenn and his band worked the crowd all night long. Capturing the spirit towards the end of the night, Glenn stepped to the front of the stage and asked “Baltimore, are you in the mood?” before launching into the lead single from Pop Psychology, “Sleeping With A Friend”. Jumping throughout the song, Glenn climbed the stage stairway stationed between panels of flashing lights, spinning atop the platform, then led the crowd through the “All My Friends” refrain before closing out their main set.
With a giant inflatable brain – from the Pop Psychology album cover – atop the stage for the encore, Neon Trees performed “Everybody Talks”, their main single from Picture Show, and “First Things First”, an optimistic firsthand account of life from Glenn off Pop Psychology.
While this stop was their first to Baltimore, the quartet thrilled the crowd like they were Charm City natives. Neon Trees is a can’t miss performance in any city, from a group that continues to defy genres and expand their musical progression with each album.
Continuing their massive summer tour, the group heads next to Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Louisiana before returning west for California.