Set the night to music

... So I got to go to a concert last night. A pretty entertaining concert actually. And for the 1,200 or so crowded around the college venue stage it was a show of three very different acts ...

Opening “the party” was Chicago’s The Hush Sound, a bouncy, fun pop band consisting of the kind of people you’d want to chill with on a Saturday night. Until a few weeks ago, I'd never heard of them. But after receiving this concert announcement and doing my research, I fell hard for the foursome.

In the middle was South Dakota’s The Spill Canvas and their edgier, hard rock produced by four guys who look like bad boys on the outside, but still have a cool soft side.

And finally, there was the Los Angeles-based OneRepublic, those preppy darlings of MySpace who sound a lot like Coldplay, Keane, The Fray or – insert any other rock band with a guy who sits at a piano and strains to sing falsetto.

There was to be a fourth band, but signs plastered on the venue’s front doors announced Augustana would not perform because of an injury to one of its band members. I learned later that lead singer Dan Layus injured his hip during a show in Madison last week. Too bad, after interviewing Jared Palomar a couple weeks ago and playing their latest album, I was really looking forward to another try at Augustana.

As the opening act, The Hush Sound — comprised of Bob Morris, Greta Salpeter, Darren Wilson and Mike Leblanc taking over on bass for Chris Faller, who I was sorry to learn left the band last month — had the crowd easily entertained with their high-spirited tunes.

“You’re a fun bunch, I tell ya,” Salpeter shouted to the crowd after their opening number, to which Morris added, “This is already the best party I’ve been to!”

The classically-trained Salpeter is dazzling to watch and so at ease on her keyboard; her style made me feel like I was watching her at Miss Kitty's Old West Saloon.

Meanwhile the band’s hand-clappy melodies and sunny harmonies on songs like “Love You Much Better” and “Wine Red” were terrific fun.

Two days before one of the most significant elections in history, the show also wasn’t without some political overtones. After enthusiastically urging the crowd to vote, The Hush Sound pulled out their song “We Believe in Barack Obama,” which has been streaming on the group’s MySpace page for several weeks. (Chorus: We believe in Barack Obama / He loves you and he loves your mama / We believe in Barack Obama, yeah / With all the change that’s buildin’ / Gonna bring hope to the children / We believe in Barack Obama, yeah).

I've listened to it several times there, but hearing them do it live was way cool ...

Going in, there was no band I was as excited to see as Hush Sound; they were every bit as fun to watch and hear as I'd hoped and imagined. So good that I felt like I could've left after their set and I would've had my money's worth ... But I stayed, and lucked out with getting to do a meet and greet with them, too.

Check out their video for my favorite song “Honey” ...

The Hush Sound's set list ...
1. “Intro” / “Love You Much Better”
2. “We Intertwined”
3. “Medicine Man”
4. “Not Your Concern”
5. “Wine Red”
6. “We Believe In Barack Obama”
7. “Honey”
* * *
The Spill Canvas brought a harder sound that, at some points, bordered on heavy metal, and wasn’t surprising considering frontman Nick Thomas got his start playing guitar in a metal band.

I wasn't so excited to see The Spill Canvas. After all, I'm not a hard rock fan. But in the end, I really kind of liked what I saw and heard.

The tone was turned down as the set moved forward with the band also showing their classic rock influences. Some of the riffs in “Staplegunned” I thought could have been taken from a Boston song, while “Connect the Dots,” which was probably my favorite song in their set, seemed to channel Lindsey Buckingham.

The Spill Canvas's set list ...
1. “Hush Hush”
2. “Staplegunned”
3. “Saved”
4. “Polygraph, Right Now”
5. “Dutch Courage”
6. “Connect the Dots”
7. “All Over You”
* * *

On the surface, that whole Coldplay vibe has the tendency to bore someone pretty quickly. (I was yawning throughout the front half of OneRepublic’s set). But it turns out, there might be more to OneRepublic than that falsetto voice and those manufactured beats that have made them – so far – a little more than a one-hit wonder.

It occurred to me about midway through, they seem to really enjoy what they do, and they’re pretty good musicians, too.

Surrounded by a quintet of living room lamps (one at each instrument station) and a crystal chandelier hanging above them, the five guys who make up OneRepublic — lead vocalist Ryan Tedder, Zach Filkins, Drew Brown, Brent Kutzle and Eddie Fisher — traded multiple instruments, playing not just with guitars and keyboards, but filling their computerized orchestral arrangements with live bells and a cello, too.

During their hour and 15 minute set on Sunday night, the band gave its audience a healthy dose of material from their popular “Dreaming Out Loud” album. In between the radio-friendly “Stop And Stare” and a catchy new song called “All The Right Moves,” the band inserted epics like “All Fall Down” and “Say (All I Need),” rock anthems that easily could have fit a much larger arena. At times, their sound reminded me of U2.

They also threw in a hopping, rock ‘n’ roll-tinged cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which Filkins introduced with a Mariachi-styled guitar solo.

Here's the intro ...

And then “Crazy” ...

Later, they began their two-song encore by covering Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” which also struck me as a political message. OneRepublic’s Brown also was sporting a T-shirt with a large picture of Obama. And Tedder told the crowd after the song that he dressed for Halloween as “Barack Obama as Sarah Palin.”

Both covers were so cool, they'll easily find a place on my “Best Live Covers” list ...

But by the time the band got to its uber-hitApologize” — which also started with a dramatic cello intro — the moment seemed a little anti-climactic.

Tedder, by the way, was dressed last night in a black and white Batman & Robin T-shirt. Before ending their main set with “Someone to Save You,” he dedicated the song to the “people in this room because you came out on a crappy night (It was raining ... it always rains when I go to concerts at this place) and supported us. I'm wearing a Batman & Robin T-shirt, I don't even look like I should be in a band, but thank you for everything!”

OneRepublic's set list ...
1. “Mercy”
2. “Goodbye Apathy”
3. “Stop and Stare”
4. “All Fall Down”
5. “Crazy”
6. “All the Right Moves”
7. “Say (All I Need)”
8. “Won’t Stop”
9. “Apologize”
10. “Someone to Save You”
11. Encore: “For What It’s Worth”
12. Encore: “All We Are”

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