Walk The Moon blasts off with yet another sunny Summerfest set
In 2015, Walk The Moon took the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage walking on top of the world.
When the grounds stage headliners that year were announced, the Ohio band's song, "Shut Up And Dance" (MAYBE you've heard it?), had just begun to dominate radio waves. By the time Summerfest opened up, the song graduated to full global domination, played every ten minutes on Top 40 radio and guaranteed a place on every single wedding reception's playlist for years to come. So, of course, the crowd gathered that night accordingly, piling around the relatively small, obviously overmatched grounds stage in zombie invasion-esque numbers. And thankfully Walk The Moon delivered to the mammoth audience, launching everyone there on a great ride into bright, bubbly, blissful power pop orbit.
Two years later, as Walk The Moon hit the Miller Lite Oasis stage, not much has changed since then. The band has yet to release a new album since 2014's "Talking Is Hard" (other than a live album in 2016), and it brought out few new songs since that night at Summerfest, save for a collaboration with Steve Aoki and Boehm in the middle of 2016 and a go at the beloved theme song from "Ghostbusters" for the remake last summer. Even its setlist Friday night sounded mostly familiar to the one from its last appearance, certainly ending on the same final trio: "I Can Lift A Car" and "Shut Up And Dance," followed by an encore of "Anna Sun."
The most important similarity to the Cincinnati rockers' last visit to Milwaukee, though? Their Big Gig concert was, once again, a live-wire launch of joyful and colorful dancing and fun, in front of yet another packed crowd (though no longer "World War Z"-esque mountainous hordes of fans, more just feeding day on "The Walking Dead" levels). The band may not have had a lot new to offer after two years away, but thankfully the old reshuffled material is still nowhere near lacking in life.
After again emerging triumphantly on stage to the sounds of "The Lion King," Walk The Moon – led by the casually blonde mohawked lead singer Nicholas Petricca – opened on a slightly different note from their last visit, moving up the thrashing, screaming, high-on-energy low-on-accurate-spellings rocker hit "Up 2 U" to the opening song slot. For those expecting a lighter, peppier pop performance on par with the band's monster smash, it may have been a surprising start – but it worked perfectly, getting the night off to a rollicking start.
"Next in Line" was, indeed, next in line for Walk The Moon, yet another big, bright, power pop anthem – this time complete with Imagine Dragons-approved bonus drums for Petricca to pummel the hell out of and his cute little two-step sways from behind his keyboards.
The energy kept riding high into "Avalanche," and while all three songs were 2015 repeats, one big difference from two years ago became clear: The audio mix at the Miller Lite Oasis was infinitely improved from the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage one, where the bass threatened to overwhelm the entire show and the lyrics were occasionally muddy. Here, all four parts came through solidly, and the dance-happy tunes sounded great and peppy, rather than garbled and bass-heavy.
After "Come Under The Covers," yet another power pop powerhouse as well as one of the few new additions to the setlist since 2015, the band finally had their first interaction with the crowd, busting out a "Wayne's World" Mille-wah-que before briefly noting this was their fourth Big Gig show and jumping into "Different Colors." Petricca would grow a little chattier as the night went on – eventually climaxing in a speech about "pain as information" and then leading the crowd in a repeat of his group relaxation session – but overall, save for those short chats and some odd ethereal song breaks, Walk The Moon just kept sprinting forward through their setlist.
Much of that setlist was high-energy and electricity – new addition "Spend Your $$$," "Sidekick" – the group did slow things down, or at least brought the miles per hour to just above the speed limit. But instead of frustrating, like the brief trancing sonic limbos which ground the show occasionally to a halt) "Aquaman" made for a nice moment of rare relaxation before the party was quickly brought back up too speed. The most low-key entry from the entire setlist, the song – opening with a duet between Petricca and guitarist Eli Maiman, yet again a quiet MVP of the night – plays like a floaty and almost acoustic rippling ode that Phil Collins would've been proud of.
From there, Walk The Moon rocked out a few more numbers – the almost tropical "Work This Body"; the modestly flirting-with-metal "Headphones," one of the set's few new songs, performed sans shirts by Petricca and bassist Kevin Ray to happy approval from the young crowd; "Portugal"; and "I Can Lift A Car," complete with Petricca's lengthy treatise on pain and spiritual exercises/meditation techniques. In 2015, these motivational speaker-esque chats landed a little dorky and trite – and they still somewhat did Friday night – but considering Petricca's 2016, in which the band cancelled its tour and took some time while his father battled early-onset Alzheimer's, the moment matured a bit, not quite as much of a contrived moment of group therapy and instead more real, more heartfelt (especially the notes about the purpose of pain).
Of course, the show ended on the obvious, but no less jubilantly appreciated, "Shut Up And Dance." The crowd went suitably wild, singing the lyrics the whole way through and then helping bring the band back out to perform its encore of "Anna Sun" – as well as to give a sweet shoutout to their families, who were apparently out amongst the audience for the show.
And with that, the band called it a night after a strong 90 minutes of bouncy, bright poppy delights.
No, Walk The Moon didn't have much new to offer this time around, more a merely reshuffled set than a new one – though, according to a coyly teasing Petricca, a new record is in the final stages, hinting at a release later this year. And they at least fit in two fresh tunes perhaps off that upcoming album – "Headphones" and the strobing "In My Head," both hitting a live stage for only the second time each – though snuck into the set without much ballyhooing at all, and the latter musically fading out of mind a little fast.
What they did have, though, was a collection of perfectly peppy, familiar fan favorites executed well with enthusiasm and excitement. And that was more than enough to tide over fans and keep Walk The Moon fans dancing on the earth.
"Up 2 U"
"Next In Line"
"Come Under The Covers"
"Spend Your $$$"
"In My Head"
"Work This Body"
"I Can Lift A Car"
"Shut Up And Dance"
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