To the tune of action-movie dramatic music, the 2000s class heroes Plain White T’s walked out on the Great American Music Hall’s small stage to revive the pop-rock sound we all knew and loved 10 years ago.
When the band performed its older tunes, such as “1, 2, 3, 4” and “Our Time Now,” the crowd showed its loyalty by singing along and holding up phones to record the nostalgic moments. The songs off of Plain White T’s new album, however, fell flat in audience engagement. It was apparent that the band’s lyricism was lost and the melodies featured were less danceable relative to the music most of the concertgoers were familiar with.
The show started with “Light Up The Room,” a single off of the newest album, Parallel Universe. The song sounded almost hollow, as if something were missing from the performance, and that theme was carried through every song played off of the new record.
“Bonnie I Want You,” another track off of Parallel Universe, showed the more mature side of the band — but in a really weird way. The lyrics, “What you gonna do when the drugs run out? Standing in the street with your tits out / Bonnie, I want you,” were just short of uncomfortable to hear in comparison to the romantic “Hey There Delilah” era. While the ukulele strums were a nice touch, the song still dragged between awkward and endearing.
The song “Top of the World” brought the energy up with a driving bass line. The lyrics felt repetitive as the song went along, so the dynamism in the instruments helped overall. From the sounds of it, the band really hasn’t matured much from its mid-2000s tween rock comfort zone, even though the rest of the music industry has.
One of the group’s oldest songs, “The Giving Tree,” was sung by guitarist Tim Lopez. Lead singer Tom Higgenson called this tune “a campfire song, or a living room song,” reflecting its folky influence. If there’s one thing the Plain White T’s do really well, it’s the harmonies from the band members that back almost every song — a signature of sorts for the group’s sound.
“Low” continued the trend of newer songs not being the biggest live hits. Drummer De’Mar Hamilton was going hard in the outro, bringing the most energy of the night in the last 30 seconds. Yet he seemed to be the only one going that hard to the song. Good on him for feeling it, but it would have been nice if the rest of the crowd had the opportunity to reach his energy level.
The highlight of the show was the performance of “Hate (I Really Don’t Like You),” which Higgenson said is the “quintessential Plain White T’s song.” For the first time throughout the entire night, it was obvious that this band is better than its newest album.
Classic hit “Rhythm of Love” started comically; Higgenson accidentally missed his cue to start the tune, and after laughing it off, jokingly told the crowd to blame the drummer. The stumble was quickly gotten over, the group leading the audience in fun vocal runs and soothing instrumentals.
Regardless of sound and energy, the band members constantly showed their gratitude toward the audience, interacting with them far more than most performers would. Higgenson never shied away from giving a friendly fist bump or singing to someone’s camera during the set.
After the band left the stage, everyone in the crowd waited patiently for the expected encore performance of “Hey There Delilah.” The quiet, acoustic song was performed, much to everyone’s content, with Higgenson changing the lyrics to “Hey, San Francisco here’s to you, this one’s for you.” He said he was going to refrain from doing it, but the number of syllables just fit too perfectly.
In all, the band members did not give a bad performance — the new album simply doesn’t give them much amazing sound to work with. The newer songs may not be up to par with what people would expect from the Plain White T’s, but the group proved its age has not made its old songs any less good.