Live Review: Neon Trees at KAABOO Del Mar, September 19, 2015

Neon Trees
Photo credit: WireImage via imageSPACE

As day two of KAABOO Del Mar heated up, alternative rock act Neon Trees took over the Zuma stage for a mid-afternoon set that offered festival-goers some welcome shade behind the racetrack’s grandstand. Charismatic frontman Tyler Glenn jabbed about the less-than-ideal timeslot, suggesting it deprived the sweaty throng of Neon Trees’ usual light show, but it didn’t seem to impact the band’s electrifying performance.

The quartet (joined by two additional tour mates) opened the show, their last of the year, with the throbbing hit “Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night).” Surprisingly overdressed, Glenn didn’t waste much time before shedding his snappy leather jacket. However, rather than tossing it into the wings, he hurled it into the crowd for those by the guardrail to claw over.

The 75-minute setlist covered the breadth of Neon Trees’ three-album discography, featuring songs from their 2010 debut Habits, sophomore effort Picture Show, and last year’s Pop Psychology. Memorable moments included the nostalgic “1983,” the online-dating-inspired “Love in the 21st Century,” and breakthrough single “Animal,” which — with its “here we go again” hook — became a rousing audience singalong.

Lanky and lithe, Glenn ambled across the stage, transitioning from balletic poses to Michael Jackson moves. Early in the show, the openly gay singer shared how, growing up in Temecula/Murrieta, he was often teased about how he looked and told he “needed a makeover.” At that time, he said, he never could have imagined he’d be here now — on this stage, sharing his music before this adoring audience.

And Glenn & Co. (guitarist Chris Allen, bassist Branden Campbell, and drummer Elaine Bradley) returned the love on this sweltering Saturday. They performed their latest, non-album single, “Songs I Can’t Listen To,” which had an ’80s guitar-pop feel to it. They also surprised the crowd with an unlikely yet fun cover of “Come On Eileen” and closed their tight set with the relentlessly catchy “Everybody Talks.”

The real thrill, though, came a little earlier, when Glenn ventured from the stage into the audience for “Sleeping With A Friend.” Standing on a riser and encouraging all his friends to sing louder, Glenn asked, “Can I surf on top of you guys?” He then requested, “Put your phones down. I want to trust you. Come on, this is like a trust fall!” With that he dove on top of the crowd, spun around, and sang more of the song before sinking into the audience and eventually making his way back to the stage to collapse.

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