A throwback from Winter Break for this week’s online exclusive:
This is the first concert I have attended where a “Skip the Line” promotion was actually useless. Early that morning, I called the box office to ensure that they were still offering the feature, which puts you ahead of the entire line and gets you in the concert hall first with a $20 purchase at a House of Blues establishment. The lady over the phone laughed. She said yes, of course, but that kids were lined up before 8 a.m., when the stores opened, so they could be in front of the “Skip the Line” line to see XL106.7’s XLent Night Out concert with The Script, The 1975, and Cobra Starship.
When I got there at noon that day, I quickly figured out why she laughed. Curving away from the building, though a large field, alongside Downtown Disney’s lake, into the parking lot, the “Skip the Line” line stretched longer than the general admission line.
“I told you we should have got here earlier,” my sister snarled.
I was not upset, however. The concert was a holiday show hosted by XL106.7, a popular Orlando radio station. A portion of each ticket benefitted the Baby DJ program, which collected toys for misfortunate families during the holidays. The more tickets sold, the more money went to the cause. I loved the idea. People came to a holiday concert and had a great time. Instead of the happiness stopping there, other were also able to enjoy the holidays as a result.
Consequently, I was pleased seeing the concert sold out and attracting such a big crowd, even if it meant that I was farther back on the floor than usual. Members of the radio station expressed their gratification on stage. Not only did I contribute to a charitable cause, but I was also given amazing performances in return.
This was not the typical, gimmicky holiday show. Attracting a young adult audience, the main listenership of XL106.7, the lineup was filled with good, trending artists that could easily headline their own concerts at the House of Blues or comparably sized venues. While all relatively juxtaposing, the bands blended well together to create a consistently entertaining show.
Originally stealing all of our middle school hearts with “Good Girls Gone Bad,” but then making a mark in mainstream radio with “You Make Me Feel… (feat. Sabi),” Cobra Starship opened the show with an ebullient, fresh set. Lead singer Gabe Saporta was thoroughly engaging, constantly requesting involvement from the crowd and interacting with his fellow band members. A tangible air of activity lingered after their performance, laying the foundation for what provided to be a great night.
This is when things really got exciting. Well, I may be a little biased since they are one of my favorite bands of all time. Okay, I am definitely biased, but, objectively speaking, while not the headlining act, most of the crowd, including myself, was there for The 1975. The 1975 exploded on top of the United Kingdom charts with their self-titled debut album in September 2013, instigating a wave of buzz that overflowed across the ocean to the United States. Even though their debut was my most frequently listened album on Spotify in 2014, I still cannot fully encapsulate their sound into one concise description. And I am pretty sure that is how the band wants it to be. While some wholeheartedly disagree, I am a firm believer that the The 1975’s spin on indie-rock-pop-whatever is one of the most important things to happen to music in a while, proving that “popular” music can be hip and cool and attract a devoted, underground following similar to bands much smaller their size. The 1975 were named “The Hardest Working Band of 2014,” according to Songkick, covering more ground (a distance that would take the quartet two thirds of the way to the moon) and playing more shows than any other artist since 2010. The XLent Night Out marked the end of the band’s massive North American headlining tour and their last show in the United States for a very long time, enough time for the band to rest, record and release their second album.
They played my favorite song.
The 1975 entered the stage in a sea of fog, blurring the image and building the anticipation. In signature Matty Healy style, the lead singer appeared in front of the sold out crowd with a bottle of red wine and a cigarette just as the whole act plummeted into the first song. The set flowed naturally from there, covering their most popular material, notably “Robbers,” “Girls,” and “Settle Down,” while also hitting on some older hits, such as “So Far (It’s Alright)” and “You,” satisfying the more devoted followers. Healy’s usual carefree stage presence, alternating and floating through organic dance moves, sips of red wine, and puffs of many cigarettes, was exaggerated by noticeable exhaustion. However, the performance was distinctly genuine, reminding me of the raw and personal experience that is live music. I never wanted The 1975 to leave the stage. They, to my dismay, had to, but not without ending to a powerful conclusion of dynamic flashing lights, thrashing guitars, and passion.
XLent Night Out’s headline act, The Script, has possessed an abundance of airplay in the past couple years. Their list of radio singles is too long to fully list, but includes hits like “For the First Time,” “Hall of Fame (feat. will.i.am),” and “Breakeven.” Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, The Script continued the evening’s international presence that Manchester-bred The 1975 began. Admittedly, other than what I had passively heard on the radio, I did not know much about The Script. However, that was made up by my friend Sarah, a true, sincere, and honest diehard fan of the trio, who accompanied me to the show. Her thrill spilled over to my sister and I, leaving us enthusiastic for their performance, even if they were the reason why The 1975 had to stop playing. Although headlining, The Script possessed a smaller cohort of fans in the audience, so much so that the mass of people tightly gathered at the front loosened in between them and The 1975, much to the delight of Sarah.
Shortly into The Script’s set, I completely understood her fascination. Vocalist Danny O’Donoghue stomped onto the stage, controlling the space as the band ran through their first song “Paint the Town Green.” His trenchcoat, which did not stay on for long (it was December in Florida for that matter), added to the power wrapped in the image, drawing me into their performance even though I did not know many of their songs aside from the most popular. Adding to the audience interaction that O’Donoghue mastered, at one point, the lead singer surfaced on the opposite side of the concert hall and traveled his way through crowd. The highlight was “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved,” which captured the entire room into a mass sing-along. Coupled with the pleasant experience of meeting the band outside of the House of Blues after the show, it is safe to say that I will be purchasing tickets to The Script again.
I would have called XL106.7’s XLent Night Out a success with donating to a good cause and being gifted with a good concert in return. However, the evening’s bands exceeded all expectations, even The 1975, who had pretty high expectations to start, causing the concert to be one to remember.