Foster The People never writes mediocre songs; the band’s tunes are exceptional when they are good and merely good when they’re bad. The band did not disappoint with a nearly two-hour concert when it made its Rochester, New York debut playing in front of a neon Sacred Hearts Club sign to a mostly younger crowd that descended to the Dome Center on Friday night.
Power pop act The Demos opened the show and was impressive from the get go and the group seemed to get better as the set wore on. The strength of The Demos is in its songwriting but the five-piece band also had terrific presence and filled out its tunes with instrumental muscle.
Foster The People hit the stage to smoke and lights; lead singer Mark Foster wore a leather jacket and lit up with “A Beginner’s Guide To Destroying The Moon” which unleashed raw power by featuring loud, distorted guitars and a driving beat. The band’s next tune “Pay The Man” the lead track off its current album “Sacred Hearts Club” brought the band towards a pop direction that continued for most of the night with songs like “Doing It for the Money” and of course, mega-hit “Pumped Up Kicks.”
The highlight of the night though was straight-up Hip Hop tune “Loyal Like Sid& Nancy” which was the last song of the band’s encore and energized the crowd before it was time to call it an evening.
The band offered other eclectic twists. “Lotus Eater,” a slick punk tune that Foster said was about Los Angeles segued to Ramones cover “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Then later in the evening, Foster told a story of when he was growing up in Cleveland he was in a hardcore band and wanted to get out of Ohio to play hardcore in Upstate New York. He said that his band would not play a hardcore song but instead thanked the audience for living out his high school dream and launched into a surprising but energetic cover of “Eisbaer,” by the Swiss post-punk band Grauzone that had Foster singing in German.
Foster The People did a laudable job of deconstructing its music to keep it interesting but the songs weren’t deconstructed to the point where they lost their punch. Some of the songs had different identities like “Are You What You Want To Be?” which replaced the chorus with extra percussion by adding keyboardist Isom Innis to a second drum kit; Innis actually spent tons of time laying out beats on drums which created even more depth.
Foster The People’s best asset is its pop skeleton with Mark Foster citing the Beach Boys as a major songwriting influence. In concert, the band’s sound was laden with pop and reminiscent at times of polyrhythmic-era Talking Heads with doses of Hip Hop and punk. The combination worked like a charm. 8/10
photo credit: Roman Divezur