A sense of 70s nostalgia is the best way to describe the vibe found throughout WaMu Theater Tuesday night for the Foster the People show, which started early with opening sets from Kimbra and Mayer Hawthorne.
Dressed in a dapper red suit and black bow tie, Hawthorne’s throwback demeanor is easy to compare to the greats of decades long ago, but his sleepy soul tracks speak to a more current time. And while the singer was, at times, lost in the immensity of the venue, he found his stride on tracks like “Shiny & New,” and “The Walk” – a pair of songs that showcased a more tender, and at times, snarky, side. “So long, you did me wrong,” Hawthorne cooed on the latter of the two, amongst adlibs that included a poignant “That’s right, bitch.”
Although Hawthorne’s set remained mellow throughout, the Detroit singer’s bouncy rendition of Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams,” served as a high point in the set – and proved the perfect catalyst to get the crowd amped for the coming festivities.
There’s something about Hawthorne that kind of makes you think he was a game show host in a past life. In both demeanor and sound, the soul singer gives the impression that he’d be just as comfortable hosting the “Price is Right” as he is performing on a stage – a sentiment that was all but confirmed when the theme music from the popular show served as his exit music from the stage.
By the time Mark Foster and Co. took the stage, the room was filled to the brim with one of the most eclectic crowds I’ve ever seen: middle-aged parents alongside their 12-year olds shuffling toward the stage, 20-somethings drunkenly swaying to the rolling percussion serving as an intro to the set.
It became obvious, from the moment the three-piece took the stage, that the headlining act had arrived: where Hawthorne’s set was an attempt at an intimate, jazz club feel (an impressive feet for the 7000-plus capacity venue), Foster the People’s was not: framed by an elaborate set-up of seizure-worthy LEDs, elaborate stage puppetry, and all around pomp and circumstance, the baby-faced lead man commanded the attention of every person in the room, delivering a selection of tracks from the group’s debut release, Torches.
While Foster’s vocals tend to come across a bit whiny on the airwaves, it’s a new and exciting spectacle to see him live: surprisingly, Foster’s got the vocal range needed to hit the Begees-esque notes characteristic of their experimental pop tracks. And his talents as a multi-instrumentalist had him spending equal time at the keys, drums, and guitar in addition to holding down the mike.
The night was made all the more special when the trio brought out the Sounders FC band to accompany them on the trippy single “Houdini.” COOL. FREAKING. MOVE.
The group closed the night with a pair of stunners: the emotionally stirring “Ruby” and the unavoidable breakout-hit-turned-social-commentary “Pumped Up Kicks,” – that proved, among other things, a refreshing truth. Amidst the sass and sparkle of their 292 live show, Foster the People continue to be one thing: a solid pop act.
Keegan Prosser is a writer in the Seattle area.