Death Cab For Cutie, Muse, Florence + The Machine & More Lead KROQ Weenie Roast: Live Review

For anyone wondering what the alternative music landscape will be in the summer of 2015, look no further than the lineup at KROQ's Weenie Roast Y Fiesta.

Topping the bill were the artists with arguably the three most anticipated alternative albums of the summer: Muse, Of Monsters and Men, and Florence + the Machine. All three new releases arrive in early June.

Joining the three were a litany of current alternative hit-makers, including Death Cab for Cutie, Panic! at the Disco, Walk the Moon, AWOLNATION, Vance Joy and Cold War Kids, as well as up-and-comers like Saint Motel, Big Data, X Ambassadors and James Bay, with All Time Low all on the Bud Light side stage.

The annual fest was held Saturday, May 16, at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Irvine, Calif.

The day started strongly on the side stage with an outstanding set by Bay, highlighted by his current hit "Hold Back The River," as well as Saint Motel supplying some colorful entertainment with the feather-wearing Saint Motel Dancers joining them. The crowd predictably went crazy when KROQ hero Mark Hoppus joined All Time Low on their current collaboration, "Tidal Waves," during their side-stage closing set.

Kicking things off on the main stage were self-proclaimed "local heroes" Cold War Kids, who set the tone for the main stage, which throughout the night featured an array of solid sets characterized by a mix of a few new songs, radio smashes and few surprises, save for the occasional curve ball, like Panic! at the Disco's impressive cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

As expected, for example, the capacity crowd sang along vociferously with Joy's "Riptide," screamed their heads off for Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" and ate up Death Cab's mix of new songs like "Black Sun" and standards such as the opening "I Will Possess Your Heart" and the closing "Soul Meets Body."

Every main stage band leading up to Florence, who was first to perform of the three top-billed acts, did exactly what they were supposed to -- and did it well, with Panic earning crowd favorite status and AWOL being the most rocking.

Welch, still recovering from her Coachella foot injury, was seated for most of the performance, but with a voice as powerful and skillful as hers, as well as a true artistic sensibility, the current Billboard cover artist was arguably the night's most outstanding. She refused to let the injury hold her down, as she asked the crowd to jump for her during "Dog Days Are Over," which the audience happily obliged.

For case in point of her artistic sensibility, she performed "Shake It Off," which she introduced by saying this was the first time they performed the song in this way in front of an audience, as almost a gospel tune. It was soulful, brilliant and left no question why Joy, talking to Billboard after his set, said he was awestruck talking to Welch earlier in the day. Even on one foot she is a stunning talent and one of the prime examples of why the alternative scene is in great shape going forward.

Another great reason to feel good about alternative music is Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men, who seem poised to make a big jump on this new album, delivering a set that was very strong, maybe even more so given the repeated technical difficulties that marred what should have been a complete triumph.

In spite of that repeated sound glitch, which at one point prompted frontwoman Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir to sarcastically quip, "You like that sound? It's a beautiful sound," the band still displayed their ambition and daring, going deep with the new album starting with the stunning "Thousand Eyes," a sinister, atmospheric number that exploded in the middle.

On their new album, the band has gone for a much bigger sound, which was evident on the lead single "Crystals." Other new tracks included "Empire," which displayed a great pop/rock hook and "Eye of the Storm," characterized by the rhythmic drum that kicked off the new song. Even on the familiar hits the group branched out, like including a trumpet solo on the reworked "Little Talks." It's a shame that arguably the most discussed aspect from Of Monsters and Men will be the constant sound snafu cause even with that the group more than proved themselves ready to make it to the headliner status, where Muse have resided for years.

Easily the most anticipated act of the night, the British trio Muse received a standing ovation as soon as the rotating stage turned to indicate the band was up next. On their new album, Drones, the act teamed with iconic producer "Mutt" Lange, who has brought the thunder with AC/DC and Def Leppard, among countless other rock bands.

If the opening of Muse's set was any indication Lange has definitely brought a heavier sound to the group, who came out to the new album's spoken-word bit "[Drill Sergeant"], before shredding on guitar on the new "Psycho." The new single "Dead Inside," the second track played Saturday, was also more forceful on stage, offering a lot of promise for when the band takes Drones on a proper tour and can really showcase the new album live.

With this being a short radio station set, though, Muse wisely gave the crowd what it wanted with a string of hits, including "Supermassive Black Hole," "Uprising," "Resistance," Starlight" and the closing "Knights of Cydonia," a track that sent everyone home happy.

KROQ Weenie Roast - Saturday, May 16 / Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (Calif.) Album Review
4 STARS

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