San Francisco’s alternative rock station Live 105 gave the Bay Area the gift of music this holiday season with two 2 sold out nights at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. With a total of 13 acts … many of them headliners in their own right … and 9 hours of music (not including set changes) between the two nights, there couldn’t be a better way to kick off the holiday season nor a better value in music.
By the time doors opened at 5 pm on Friday night, the fans that had weathered the frigid temperatures were clamoring to get in. Chalk it up to Friday traffic, but aside from these early arrivals, the arena seemed to fill up slowly and attendance was unfortunately sparse for local openers Fritz Montana who took the stage a mere 15 minutes after doors opened. But not to fear, the people did arrive and by the time satin jacket-clad Capital Cities‘ energetic set (thanks to their roaming trumpet player) wrapped up with “Safe and Sound,” the Oracle Arena was primed and clearly more than ready ready to rock.
Any doubt that the crowd was not here for a good time was quickly erased when Arctic Monkeys (who arguably should have been later in the line-up) took the stage. Well-coiffed and sounding polished, their first notes to “Do I Wanna Know?” set the crowd on fire. Frontman Alex Turner couldn’t have been any more modest when he said, “we are the Arctic Monkeys and we are the real thing.” The real thing indeed. The surprise twist in their set (which was probably lost on a good portion of the audience) was when they busted out a portion of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” in the middle of “Arabella.”
Next up A.F.I. who opened with “The Leaving Song Pt. II” which was probably the most obscure song of the night, but set the loyal fans apart from the rest early-on in their set. From there it ventured into more familiar territory including radio staples (e.g. “Girl’s Not Grey” and “Miss Murder”) as well as material from their latest release (“17 Crimes” and “I Hope You Suffer”). With only 40 minutes there was no holding back, Davey frequently taking flight off the drum riser and speakers while Jade/Hunter flew back and forth across the expansive stage.
One of the highlights from Night #1 was clearly Queens of the Stone Age’s set. Starting off the set with “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and enlisting the crowd’s help with the chant, “nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol,” Josh Homme brought the raunch in a way that only he can, only half-joking between songs, “we just started and we’re already banned on the radio.” Without a doubt, the increase in energy in the room was palpable. You can imagine Vampire Weekend and Kings of Leon watching back stage and having that “oh shit” moment when they realize that they would have to follow it.
Vampire Weekend and Kings of Leon both certainly did their damnedest to keep that energy high with VW’s set keeping almost the entire arena on their feet and moving throughout the set. Things calmed down a bit by the time Kings of Leon took the stage around 11 pm partly due to their arena rock sound but also due to the sheer number of hours that the crowd had been attentive up until then. “Last song, are you all ready to sing?” cued a cheer from the crowd for “Sex on Fire” which rapped up an encore-less set at 12:00 pm despite chants from the audience for more.
Photo Galleries From Night #1
Where Night #1 gathered steam over the course of the first few acts, Night #2 kicked off with a bang. The lines out front were considerably longer than the previous night and by the time The Neighbourhood took the stage at 5:50 pm, the arena was well on its way to reaching its capacity. From there, Bastille kicked things up with a lively 35 minute set that included plenty of action and drums but clearly went by way too fast for the crowd. After this performance, it’s safe to assume that their upcoming visit to San Francisco’s Warfield will be a sell-out.
With 9 of the 13 bands successfully cycled on and off the stage without a noticeable hitch, it finally happened … the dreaded “technical difficulty.” Unfortunately for Lorde (fresh off of receiving four Grammy nominations) it was during her set which saw her opening with “Bravado,” mic off and singing to music that only she could hear. Cue the reset button and things were back on track for a 40 minute love-fest with the Bay Area crowd. It was hard not to be impressed by what this young woman can do.
Paris, France-based Phoenix was up next and singer Thomas Mars completely broke down any barriers between the band and the crowd … hopping down to the barricade with the audience and eventually diving in during the last song. Visibly beyond-stoked to be playing a sold-out arena show to such an enthusiastic crowd, Mars shouted, “Oakland, how loud can you get? Come on!” Answer from the audience: very very loud!
Up until this point of the weekend, all the bands had shared the same LED screens and lighting. This wouldn’t be the case for Arcade Fire which draped a curtain in front of the stage as the crew scurried about building an extension to the crowd and setting up. Interestingly, the set didn’t start on the stage but rather at the back of the general admission floor with Win Butler lit by a few spotlights singing “My Body Is A Cage,” surrounded by fans all aiming their cell phones at him. When the curtain finally fell, it was clear that the stage hands had been busy in the 30 minutes between sets, packing the area with gobs of equipment and lighting. Two large mirrored disco balls hung from the ceiling and fit perfectly with the “Reflektor” theme as Butler strutted out to the screaming fans where he borrowed a few cell phones to help share the moment. And not to be outdone by Arctic Monkeys, Arcade fire tossed a bit of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child” into their rendition of “Normal Person,” pulling out the stops like none of the other bands and topping off the night by firing a confetti cannon. Another successful NSSN on the books.
Photo Galleries From Night #2
For those that want more of any of these bands, Arcade Fire, Bastille and Kings of Leon all already have dates scheduled in the Bay Area during 2014.
© 2013 Alan Snodgrass | www.digitaldiversion.net. Please do not use without express permission. If you like what you see, leave a comment below and subscribe so you can be notified of new posts. You can also become a fan on Facebook.