AJR’s latest album, OK Orchestra, was released in March, and now, at the tail end of the summer, the Met brothers are finally able to go back to touring after nearly two years off the stage. I got a chance to go to one of the first live performances of the OK Orchestra Tour in Peoria, Illinois on September 12th. Between songs, Jack said it was a very unique experience that the band and the audience came to the show in a similar place after such a long break from concerts.
The show was unlike any concert I’ve ever been to. The energy of the performance, and of the crowd, was intense, but what really made the show unique was the special effects, which used video monitors to either side of and behind the stage, as well as light effects and other surprises. Even before AJR took the stage, the show began with a large red button, ominously marked “DO NOT PUSH” projected behind the stage. During one song, Jack travels across his own bedside table alongside a row of other Jacks. In another, Adam and Ryan play drums that ‘splatter paint’ all over the backdrop. And the special effects worked remarkably well, especially considering the size of the stadium and the variety of angles the audience had to the stage.
The performances were all very strong, including mostly songs from the new album OK Orchestra and their greatest hits from previous albums, like 100 Bad Days, Karma, and Burn the House Down. The band also includes several signature touches from other tours, like when Ryan showed the process of composing one of their hits. There were some cool variations from the album versions, including a mash-up between two surprisingly different songs from two different albums. The band also included a few riffs from other fan favorite songs, just to cover more ground from their discography.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the show has a surprising message to it and ties the entire show back together to the band, their own insecurities, and their dedicated fans. I can’t go into any more details without spoiling some of the show’s best surprises, but the message the band wants to share was simply illustrated but deeply felt by the show’s end. If you’re a fan of AJR’s music and have enjoyed previous shows, or if you’ve never seen them perform live, this show will exceed your expectations and have you dancing along. Even my wife, who is not a big AJR fan, found plenty to enjoy and has a newfound respect for the band after the show. If you have a chance to see AJR and the OK Orchestra Tour live, go ahead and push that big red button to get tickets. What’s the worst that could happen?