After a 4-year wait electro-indie pioneers AWOLNATION have returned with the new album Run, and familiarized the city of Toronto with it at Sound Academy on June 22nd. Supporting them were Parade of Lights and Family of the Year.
Parade of Lights kicked off the night with their brand of energetic electro-pop, pumping up the crowd with hits like “Golden”, which you’ve probably heard in one commercial or another.
Following them were Family of the Year, which seemed like a strange choice for a supporting act considering their biggest hit to date was the wistful, yearning alternative country hit “Hero”. Used extensively as promotion for last year’s award-winning film Boyhood, it’s not exactly the sort of song you’d put on a playlist with AWOLNATION. However the band’s newer material proved to be much more beefed up, bringing to mind a synth-tinged version of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. They were still an unconventional choice of opening act, but unconventional is AWOLNATION’s game.
It’s not at all hyperbolic to say that AWOLNATION are one of the most influential bands of the 2010’s. If you recall the halcyon days of 2010 you’ll realize that modern rock was caught in a loose, directionless void that wouldn’t gel until the spring of 2011 when “Sail” came onto the scene. It wasn’t so much of a direct influence sonically as it was behaviourally. “Sail” redefined what “rock” meant in the new millennium and broke down borders between nearly every genre imaginable. Prior to the song’s release, acts that were primarily synthesizer-based were relegated to the fringe; now they’re the norm. Bands are experimenting with every style of music imaginable, and scoring huge radio hits with these styles.
AWOLNATION’s latest record switches things up again. Frontman Aaron Bruno showed a penchant for raucous, frenetic arrangements on the first record but things have gotten wild on Run, as seen and heard at the show. For every moment of danceable indie-pop at the concert there were two metal breakdowns, replete with hardcore-style screams and muscular guitar riffs. Adding to the dissonance was the fact that despite all the flashing lights, the band remained cloaked in shadows for the whole set. Bruno threw in some more genre mash-ups; songs like “Windows” merged prog-rock with nu-metal, while “Dreamers” sounded like a punked-up version of Mindless Self Indulgence. “I Am” was another confidence anthem sure to be a single down the line.
Of course the hits were present. “Not Your Fault”, “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”, “Kill Your Heroes”, and “Sail” all made an appearance, albeit in much louder forms. “Sail” was the obvious closer, topping off a night that left the crowd sweaty and satisfied. Looks like AWOLNATION’s bold experimentation paid off yet again.