Although the Golden State Warriors were away at Boston earning their 24th consecutive win of the season, Oracle Arena was still set to roar Dec. 11 for Live 105’s annual Not So Silent Night. But instead of jersey-clad basketball fans twirling rally towels above their heads after Steph Curry sinks a massive three-point shot, the arena was packed with band-tee brandishing adults who charged toward the pit, clutching their overpriced Goose IPAs the moment Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s black, thick-rimmed glasses were visible onstage.
The extensive eight-band bill kicked off with Ithaca-based X Ambassadors. While it is extremely difficult to foster a sense of unity at a multiband arena, shows such as NSSN, X Ambassadors made a respectable attempt, pulling out all the stops during their 30-minute set to a nearly half-full venue. Lead singer Sam Harris was wont to show off his musical prowess, demonstrating his ability to play a full range of instruments — anything from drums to saxophone — all while working the crowd the way a rock band’s frontman should. The band did, however, seem to shrink on the arena’s massive rotating stage — its presence more fitting for intimate, midsize venues. But the crowd began to stir when the band played its recognizable radio hit “Renegade,” inciting the initial spark of excitement for the long night to come.
Oxford indie band Foals got the arena rock-n-roll ready, with electrifying guitar riffs and classic-rock inspired vibes. Fans who were familiar with Foals took advantage of the band’s short set and let loose, egging on prolonged guitar solos and mimicking Yannis Philippakis’ rugged vocals. Philippakis ended the set by leaning over the barricade and singing directly into the crowd, a moment that served as a surge of adrenaline before CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry took the stage, captivating the audience with her hypnotic, piercing glare.
CHVRCHES marked a shift from charged-up, groove-ready instrumentation to atmospheric synthpop, each bombastic beat captivating the area within a globe of sonic consonance. Dressed in all black with crystals accenting her eyes, Mayberry moved across the stage like an ethereal pixie, fading in and out of darkness during “Recover,” from the band’s 2013 debut The Bones of What You Believe. Her vocals, too, seemed to fade in and out at times, often overpowered by the overwhelming synthpop backdrop. While Mayberry was aware of the set’s brevity, preferring to play as many songs as possible instead of stopping to chat while onstage, she did pause to mention the pair of inflatable vibrating penguins to the left of the stage, decorating the host’s landing. “What are they doing?” she asked the audience, transfixed by the penguins illuminated, shaking bodies. “Don’t think too hard about it,” she joked.
The femme fatale power hour continued with the arrival of Halsey, an electropop songstress who built an Internet following far before the release of her debut album, Badlands, earlier this year. Despite an initially underwhelming setlist — opening with the slow and brooding “Gasoline” rather than an instantly recognizable hit single — Halsey’s seductive stage presence made it hard to look away. She is an artist who truly knows her audience — the performance was sensual and intimate, ignoring the passive passersby and focusing solely on those who came to see her, those standing at the front “singing every fucking word.”
“Live 105 was one of the first radio stations to fuck with my music,” Halsey said, nearing the end of her set. “I know this is an alternative station, but I’m gonna do what I do best and deliver some pop music.” The crowd cheered as she transitioned into the opening notes of “Roman Holiday,” then rounding out her set with fan favorite “Hurricane” and sing-a-long worthy “New Americana.”
The Silversun Pickups rejuvenated Oracle with their high-spirited, raucous pretense. The pit erupted into a frenzy with the first distorted chord, and carried on in a relaxed riot as the band played a career-spanning set which included songs from their 2015 release, Better Nature.
With a flicker of blinding white light, Bastille appeared and immediately took control of the audience. The UK band’s arena-ready hooks and church-like harmonies felt most fitting for the massive venue, filling the spaces with its gentle brand of indie pop. It was not until the band played its smash hit “Pompeii” that the arena finally found a sense of cohesion, as people in the furthest seats got off their feet to join the angelic chorus of “ayo’s,” singing at the top of their lungs: “But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing’s changed at all?”
And not much changed when Death Cab for Cutie graced the stage, taking no time to pause for an introduction. The hour-long set was perfect for die-hard Death Cab fans who appreciate the artistry behind an ongoing onstage jam session, executed with a sense of unity that can only be achieved with years of practice and camaraderie. But to a casual fan waiting to hear the band’s biggest hits (such as the overlooked “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”), the set seemed to drag on for longer than anticipated.
After an impromptu pre-set sing-a-long to Sublime’s “Santeria,” Weezer finally took the stage, the backdrop of its signature winged “W” illuminating the arena. The pit became packed as too-cool-for-school fans’ apathy melted into genuine excitement, eagerly anticipating the band’s first move.
“I bet they’re going to open with ‘My Name is Jonas,’” one fan said expectantly. “They’ve got to.”
And like clockwork, Weezer launched into the aforementioned opening track from 1994’s affectionately dubbed The Blue Album. There were no gimmicky lights or fireworks during its set, but the audience’s faces were lit up with genuine, infectious happiness as Weezer delivered an expertly crafted set, with a setlist that could only have been honed through decades of careful practice and consideration. The band played hits to appeal to Weezer fans of all generations — from The Green Album’s “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun” to 2009’s “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To.” But the set’s most shining moments were, of course, from the band’s debut record, which still holds the same amount of emotional weight as it did two decades ago. While Weezer is not canonically known to be an arena rock band, there is something so rewarding about filling an arena with angst-ridden teens, belting “Say It Ain’t So” at the top of their beer-soaked lungs.
After closing the show with a rousing rendition of “Buddy Holly,” the band gathered at the foot of the stage, bowing to its adoring public. Silently, Cuomo raised his hands in a reverent “W,” and the crowd reciprocated with a rowdy response, that night marking yet another “W” in Oracle Arena.
Rosemarie Alejandrino is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].