No Doubt, System of a Down & More Ring in 25 Years of KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas

Joseph Llanes
Gwen Stefani of No Doubt onstage at the 25th Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at The Forum in Los Angeles in Dec, 2014.

What the Jingle Ball tour has become to the pop world, KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas has been to the alternative scene for more than two decades. The L.A. radio station's annual December show, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, had its status as arguably the premier radio event in America cemented in November when the lineups for the two-night concert were announced and U2, which has never done Coachella, Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo, was announced as being part of the bill.

All-Access Photos: 25th Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas

Unfortunately what should have been that spine-tingling moment of U2 walking onto the Forum stage to close out the two days didn't happen due to Bono's recent bicycle injuries. Almost Acoustic Christmas carried on with No Doubt, arguably a better fit for the 25-year anniversary show given the SoCal band's L.A. roots and long history with KROQ.

U2 were missed among the bands that were looking forward to sharing a stage with the seminal group. "I'm a bit bummed they're not here," Alt-J's Gus Unger-Hamilton told Billboard. "It's exciting. It's like if a politician is in the same room as you. Even if you don't them, you're still somehow excited."

For Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, whatever disenchantment he felt about not sharing a stage with U2 was made up for by playing with the Smashing Pumpkins. "Tonight would've been the first time we played with U2. I was disappointed they're not playing, but Smashing Pumpkins is even bigger for me," he told us. "Believe it or not, this is the first time Weezer has ever played with Smashing Pumpkins. Not only that, it's the first time I've ever seen them, so this is a big night for me. [Billy Corgan]'s one of the biggest heroes of our generation."

And there were plenty of other highlights to keep people happy. "It's a cool night. I think tonight is an amazing lineup. Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt -- it's amazing," Vance Joy said.

2014: The Year in Music

The '80s were even represented with one of the best sets of the weekend, Tears for Fears. The British duo, in the midst of a surprising resurgence, earned a huge response from fans on night two with a greatest-hits set that started with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and included a cover of Radiohead's "Creep," "Mad World," "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and more.

TFF were one of the standouts of night two, along with Vance Joy, whose acoustic-based jangle to kick off night two set a far contrast from the guitar explosion of night one, which was anchored by System of a Down and Linkin Park.

Night one was the guitar extravaganza, from opening act Royal Blood, the hard-rocking British act that recently earned a seal of approval from Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, through closers System, playing their first show of 2014.

In between saw several KROQ favorites, including Fall Out Boy, Incubus and Bush.

For many of the acts that have a long history with the station being back for the 25th anniversary was a chance to revisit past shows. "I pretty much grew up seeing these shows, going to them or wishing that I could go to them," Incubus' Mike Einziger said. "The first Acoustic Christmas we did was either in 2001 or 2002, and we did both nights and we brought a 16-piece orchestra. We actually played acoustic the whole show. We were the only band that did that at the time. I remember at the time we were going, 'This is our first Acoustic Christmas, maybe we should actually play acoustic. That would be kind of awesome.' And that was a really great experience. I remember Moby, I think, was on the bill, I think Coldplay was on the bill. It was a really fun show."

The night brought plenty of surprises, from Fall Out Boy's cover of "Beat It" to Linkin bringing out System's Daron Malakian on "Rebellion" and Rise Against's Tim McIlrath for vocals on "Bleed It Out."

Walk the Moon offered some great moments with "Anna Sun" and the new single "Shut Up and Dance," while Bush survived some sound problems for a strong set that was highlighted by "Everything Zen," among others.

The biggest night one moments came from headliners System, who got the crowd moshing from the opening "Chop Suey." "Aerials" was another highlight for the band, which didn't show any rust, delivering every song with precision as fans went crazy for hits like "B.Y.O.B." and "Hypnotize."

Just as No Doubt brings that history with KROQ -- with fans shouting along "I'm just a girl" on Sunday night as they have for so many years before -- System has that same old-friends feeling. That was a recurring theme this weekend, and a very appropriate one to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Almost Acoustic Christmas.


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