It’s immensely difficult for a highly-anticipated act to pull off a surprising entrance, but Walk the Moon accomplished just that. As the crowd stood around chatting, a full-volume recording of “Circle of Life” first pierced then hurtled through the standing area, displacing all else in its path. Not unlike the sun rising on the Serengeti, the warmth of the band was present and itching to reach its zenith. The introduction was followed by an upbeat rendition of “One Foot.” Lead singer Nicholas Petricca galavanted across the stage strumming an air guitar so furiously like it was a conduit for the euphonic blast streaking the crowd. These opening bars were the prelude to an upwelling of bright sound and an even brighter outlook, a musical and thematic anchoring point of the show which, while perhaps not the most thought-provoking, fed a solid set nonetheless.
From the opening notes, it was abundantly evident that each paint-splattered member of Walk the Moon was entirely bought into broadcasting joy. While Petricca was a dominant force given his position in the band, he did not at all upstage the other members. “Lisa Baby” featured guitarist Eli Maiman as the rest of the band lifted their arms skyward, as though they were stretching for some celestial target pulled in by their music and now just within reach. “Portugal” was a definite high point of the show, as member Kevin Ray slammed a drum amid his guitar playing and stunning backing vocals. Not content with a reputation as simply a musician, however, he moved to an elevated box on “Shiver Shiver” and danced for a bit, alternating between shaking his hips and doing the stanky leg which earned raucous fanfare. Grant Park is a colossal stage, but at no moment did any part of it feel untouched by the band’s work.
While the majority of the set was marked by jubilant allegro, a stretch of music in the middle managed to sift slower tracks into the fold of the band’s crusade of positivity. “Shall we get intimate again?” asked the bridge of the “Shiver Shiver,” and the band soon delivered an answer. The next stretch, however, provided the band the opportunity to more clearly connect with viewers. Preaching love and acceptance regardless of background, the artists urged the crowd to sing along to “Different Colors.” It was a nice show of solidarity for a band that oftentimes prefers musical sound rather than make an overtly political message. “Surrender,” one of their tracks with a noticeably muted vibe, was situated effectively in this nook in the set—one can imagine the dissonance of coming down into it from “Portugal,” for instance—and offered up an opportunity for everyone to catch their breath without losing too much steam.
As the pace picked back up, the strategy behind Walk the Moon’s schtick came into clearer focus: It’s awfully hard to go wrong with a warm set executed by warm people. Indeed, the band is unwilling to allow the mood to slow for very long, and we’re all the better for it. Things were quickly picked back up with “Tightrope,” during which the members somehow found the available arm space to lead the crowd in some coordinated hand movements. “Shut Up and Dance” fed off the joy of communion, its run through the charts having clearly settled into the collective consciousness of fans and casual listeners alike. Their penultimate song “Headphones” from their newest album, trading out bright production with harsh speaking, was a strange departure from the rest of the show and kept barely buoyant only by Petricca’s charming antics. Fortunately, this digression was quickly rectified by a return to form in closing number “Anna Sun.” Taken together, the set was not unlike a plate of comfort food: Classic, sating, the type of thing that one might not find intriguing but would clearly consume again (and gladly).
Though the band stumbled once or twice, it kept up a consistent luster throughout the show. It was as though Walk the Moon had brought an ultraviolet light machine onto stage, jetting invisible radiance onto the eager crowd. As the set concluded, Walk the Moon directed listeners to go out and spread their positivity to the communities around them, and with the memory of their euphoric pop-rock show in memory, it seems likely that those audience members might look past the cliché and do just that.
—Staff writer Rick Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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