Foster the People
Fillmore Miami Beach
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Better Than: A no-hit wonder.
"Pumped Up Kicks" is such a good fucking song.
It's cool and catchy and inspires people to use their Shazam app when they hear it on a TV show or at a bar. Modern technology will tell you it is a song by Foster the People, an L.A. band that made its Miami debut at the Fillmore Miami Beach last night.
And if you knew this group only by that one impossibly great hit, you could not help but be disappointed by the 13-song set.
That is not to say that a majority of the sold-out crowd did not love every minute of Foster the People's show.
The fans jumped up and down, chanting out "Foster! Foster! Foster!" and singing along to every word. But there was at least one grouchy critic in the back of the pit who was disappointed.
Yes, from their musicianship to their respect for the audience to the pleasing aesthetics of their lighting display, right down to singer Mark Foster's impressive dance moves, the men of Foster the People defined professionalism. But who wants mere competence from rock 'n' roll?
Maybe I was spoiled by the sloppy postpunk of opener Soko.
Flanked by two guitars, a bass, and a drummer, she invited audience members to come on the stage and "dance like aliens on acid." She burped into the mic, with her only excuse being that she is "French and that is what we do" and then not making any excuses at all after flashing her breasts for a brief moment.
None of her songs was particularly memorable, but her enthusiasm and anarchic spirit was contagious -- even if for the first couple of songs, her Siouxsie Sioux-inspired vocals couldn't be heard over the music.
See also: Ten Best Female Punks Ever
After Soko's joie de vivre, the overpolished sheen of Foster the People couldn't help but feel like a repeat episode of American Idol. Simon or Paula Abdul or JLo or whoever's working as the judges these days would give the band high marks.
The singer hit his falsetto notes, did his darnedest to connect with the audience, and even looked fashionable coming out in a leather jacket, only to take it off four songs into the show. But there was such a blandness to the delivery that it made me want to pore over Foster the People's lyrics and see if it's a Christian rock band. (It's not.)
But just as I was ready to give up on them, out came "Pumped Up Kicks."
There were some subtle changes. Maracas and horn samples were thrown into the mix. Foster toned down his overemotive singing style and let the song come to him in all its laid-back glory.
Instead of prancing around like a pint-sized Bono, he had the cool of a Lou Reed that didn't seem so desperate to please. The confidence even carried over into the last song of the main set, "Don't Stop."
Maybe it is ridiculous to expect a band to craft perfection more than once. But hell, "Pumped Up Kicks" is so great that I'll take a hundred blah songs in exchange.
Foster the People's Setlist:
-"Life on the Nickel"
-"Coming of Age"
-"Are You What You Want to Be"
-"Call It What You Want"
-"Pumped Up Kicks"
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