Who: Walk the Moon, Bear Hands
Where: Rams Head Live!, Baltimore, Maryland
When: February 4, 2019
A typical Monday evening in downtown Baltimore during the winter might not lure you away from the comfort of your sweatpants after a day of work to brave the elements and spend a night out. On the first Monday of February 2019, however, Walk the Moon shook up the Inner Harbor’s boring routine with catchy melodies, a stellar light show, and the most energetic live experience that modern alt-rock has to offer.
The proceedings began with a laid-back set from openers Bear Hands, who used a mellower approach to the synthesizer-layered sounds that the headliners are known for. Brooklyn, New York’s post-punk quartet (Dylan Rau on vocals and guitar; Val Loper on bass; TJ Orscher on drums; touring member Alex Marans on lead guitar) gave the packed room at Rams Head Live! a way to ease into the night, hypnotizing the audience with a steady stream of chill tunes. The new single “Blue Lips” and set-closer “Giants” best highlighted the band’s use of clever juxtapositions, pairing semi-rapped lyrics concerning rocky relationships and miscommunications with addictive beats and bass lines.
Between sets, clusters of excited high-school and college-age fans clung to the rail, some with finger-painted white and black lines and dots on their faces — a tradition of die-hard Walk the Moon fans since the band members themselves donned similar looks back in their first-ever music video, “Anna Sun.” On the floor and in each of the three balcony levels, people of all ages were in attendance, with even a few young parents putting their elementary-school-age children on their shoulders at the back of the floor.
As the speakers played “Circle of Life” from The Lion King original movie soundtrack, Nicholas Petricca (lead vocals, keyboards, synths), Eli Maiman (lead guitar), Kevin Ray (bass), and Sean Waugaman (drums) slowly took the stage. Cincinnati, Ohio’s finest foursome (plus touring member, Lachlan “Lucky” West, on keyboards, percussion, and rhythm guitar) kicked off their set with the hormone-driven dance-rock track, “Jenny,” from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut major-label album.
Petricca, Maiman, and Ray were all smiles, dancing and bouncing around all corners of the stage while delivering powerful vocals, slick guitar solos, and hip-shaking bass grooves, respectively. All members also supplied backing vocals, making for beautiful harmonies during slower numbers like “Tiger Teeth,” from 2017’s What if Nothing.
The percussion duo of Waugaman and West made for a fantastic foundation of rhythm, delivering intense fills and accents that echoed the classic 1980s pop and rock rhythms that influenced the band’s sound, such as Talking Heads, The Police, and Tears for Fears. That eighties’ wave of nostalgia was also evident in their overall look, with Waugaman sporting round sunglasses and a metallic gold blazer, and Ray and Petricca rocking hair tipped in platinum blonde. (Avid Sting and The Police fans might’ve also noticed what could’ve been a subtle nod to the majorette uniforms that The Police’s female backup vocalists wore on the 1983–84 Synchronicity Tour, via frontman Petricca’s black jacket with military-style gold accents!)
Walk the Moon took their willing audience on a sonic adventure that, for the most part, evenly mixed in songs from all three of the band’s major-label albums. A third of the way into the set, Petricca exclaimed, “Baltimore! We’ve got a new song!” The band wasted no time jumping right into their bombastic new single, “Timebomb.” The audience was wrapped around Petricca’s finger for every chant, sing-along, and dance break.
This bond reached a new level later in the night when WTM played their massive hit song, “Shut Up and Dance,” followed by their fun and carefully-crafted cover of the “Ghostbusters” theme (complete with alternating green washes of lights and spinning red and blue lights, as a tribute to the “Ecto-1” automobile). The main set closed with the foot-stomping headbanger, “Headphones,” where the band skillfully pulled off a minute-long cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” as a surprise extended outro.
The encore with a brief “Birthday Song” sing-along for Mr. “Lucky” West (whose parents flew all the way from their homeland of Australia to Maryland to celebrate, as they were pointed out in the crowd by Ray and Petricca!). The crowd’s pre-encore chant of “AN-NA SUN! AN-NA SUN!” was finally answered as the second and final encore song. With the room aglow in soft, sunshine-yellow lights, the band and the audience sang every line together loud, proud, and in perfect harmony, making for a wholesome, warm and fuzzy finale.
Post and photos by Elizabeth Owens
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