Awolnation On the 'Run' With Muscular SXSW Show

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images 
AWOLNATION performs onstage at the 2014 Budweiser Made In America Festival at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on August 30, 2014 in Philadelphia, PA. 

Subtlety is not a virtue Awolnation subscribes to, especially in a live setting. So it wasn't surprising that Aaron Bruno and company came had no desire to take prisoners during their South By Southwest showcase at Austin's ACL Live @ Moody Theatre.

Playing just its second show of the year and first since the release of its sophomore album Run earlier in the week, the quintet opened its 14-song, 70-minute set silhouetted against extensive backlighting and pouring out enough smoke to fill the theater during the set's earliest numbers.

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The t-shirted Bruno was at his emotive best, as if releasing months of pent-up energy spent off the road crafting Run into its final form and delivering an industrial-strength performance that didn't stint on flash -- or volume.

Unlike most showcasing SXSW band, however, Awolnation -- which is just setting out on a full-fledged tour -- balanced its songlist between old and new, favoring 2011's Megalithic Symphony just a touch (eight songs vs. six from Run) and featuring that album's lengthy "Knights of Shame" suite as the main set's finale.


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But the group was firmly dialed in to the fresh material, opening with Run's title track and fusing kinetic songs such as "Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)," a herky-jerky "LOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!!," the frenetic "Dreamers" and "Windows," with its smoothly soulful chorus, alongside the familiar likes of "Kill Your Heroes," "Jump on My Shoulders" and a furious "Burn It Down." Awolnation occasionally lightened things up -- for the poppy "Not Your Fault" and the new, power-ballad styled "I Am," but those were mere respites and a momentary chance for the crowd surfers to catch their breath.

The finale "Sail" was, not surprisingly, an arm-waving epic, and the show left Awolnation with plenty of wind in its own sails as it heads for a spring and summer of being on the "Run" in support of the new album.


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