Relient K’s Mmhmm was just about all my 10-year-old self listened to back in 2004. My neighbor had it in his stereo, and we played it on repeat for days on end. Five years later, Forget And Not Slow Down defined my sophomore year of high school, being probably my top played record in 2009. Now, each of those records holds a special place in my heart for various reasons, making me ecstatic to final see Relient K live and headlining, at that.
The night fired off with a bang as House Of Heroes took the stage. As expected, the guys stuck mainly to material from their latest record, Cold Hard Want. The opening “oh-oh-oh’s” of “Remember The Empire” kicked the set off on the right foot, with vocalist Tim Skipper dominating the crowd as he yelled, “So stand up / What choice have they given us / Fight with us.” Crowd favorite “Dance (Blow It All Away)” finished the set to a stunned crowd – the musicianship throughout the closing jam was unmatched – while “God Save the Foolish Kings” was just as massive live as I’d hoped it would be.
Armed with just two acoustic guitars, a mic, and a “band in a box” laptop, William Beckett took the stage next. Having admittedly only been a causal listener of The Academy Is – save for Almost Here around the same time as Mmhmm – I was interested in how Beckett would sound having the stage all to himself. Sure enough, he was full of bravado and confidence, having all the skill needed to command the crowd. The groovy “Compromising Me” proved the perfect opener, as a retro synth and electronic drum beat from the “band in the box” allowed Beckett to be in his element. He even played “About A Girl” to a crowd that sang every word right along with him.
The hip dudes in Hellogoodbye geared up on stage with a set of old-fashioned instruments. They played a longer set than expected – nearly ten songs – and were incredibly entertaining live. Their late more indie-ish sound really carried well live, making me remember exactly why I enjoyed Would It Kill You? so much back in 2010. “Getting Old” and “Coppertone” were tremendous standouts, as the gritty bass, fuzzy guitars, and snazzy keys – and even a tambourine and ukulele – made vocalist Forrest Kline feel right at home. The set was just as entertaining as any I’d seen, with the unique influence of each band member and rattle of every instrument expanding Hellogoodbye’s album sound to one that dominates a full-size stage in ideal fashion.
So, after three engaging opening acts, Relient K finally took the stage, with Matt Thiessen doing a nice little jog to the mic. The carefree frontman played the whole show barefoot, in fact, but wow was he in complete control. Perfect opener “Forget And Not Slow Down” led wonderfully into “Be My Escape,” making the crowd sure Relient K had the perfect set list planned. Older cuts like “Mood Rings” and “In Love With The 80’s” brought a huge smile to my face. The crowd’s screams of “Let’s get emotional” throughout “Mood Rings” resulted in possibly the loudest moment of the night.
House Of Heroes’ Tim Skipper helped the boys out throughout the set – I’d say on almost 5 songs, including the powerhouse of “Sahara” – while William Beckett joined to sing “Boomerang,” one of three new songs played. The new songs definitely have the band going in a different direction than what we’re used to – they worked with Evan Bogart on “Boomerang” if that tells you anything – but it’s the perfection direction for them. Two of the new cuts were upbeat and ridiculously catchy, while the tentatively titled new song “When You Were My Baby” could have fit perfectly on Forget And Not Slow Down, making me sure their new record will be diverse.
Finishing with “Savannah,” Relient K made sure the words “until then” were echoed throughout the crowd, making it the perfect finisher in every way. Relient K’s live show conveys its growth as a band over the last 15 years while still staying true to the same songs fans fell in love with over the years. All things certain, it’s safe to say their upcoming record could be their best work yet – and I’m saying that after only 3 live songs from it.
From the tremendously distinct opening acts to the four encores, this was a night to remember. If this tour comes anywhere near you, go. No ifs, ands, or buts, just go. It’s as simple as that. I promise you won’t regret it.