Concert Review: Lindsey Stirling, AJR @ Iron City (7/7)

Posted July 17, 2014 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Crossover classical artist Lindsey Stirling and indie pop trio AJR shows off their eclectic sounds

A classically-trained violinist mixing Riverdance and hip-hop choreography with flashy EDM-inspired graphics. Five years ago you wouldn’t have imagined such a thing, especially on a stage in front of a sold-out crowd in Birmingham, Ala. On paper, the idea sounds way too sketchy and impossible to market to the pop world. And that probably explains why Lindsey Stirling is still an independent artist.  But even without the help of major distribution she found some clever way to do just that – cross over. Since breaking out as a YouTube star and showing off her skill as a quarter-finalist on season five of America’s Got Talent, the 27-year old Santa Ana native has released two full-length albums all on her own. Those albums have racked up mind-boggling sales up to the tune of 700,000 copies sold. Shatter Me, Sterling’s latest record, made a debut at number two on the Billboard 200. A congregation of college youngsters made their way into the Iron City music hall to witness the multi-talented crossover violinist in action. The packed house also earned a special treat in hearing the up-and-coming music of New York indie pop band AJR.

AJR looks like they’ve been cooked by the same factory that manufactured the Jonas Brothers and One Direction, but they consciously inject more .fun in their pop. Sporting throwback harmonies akin to the Beach Boys and split-personality pop songs that jump from barbershop pop to indie electro, the brotherly trio (Adam, Jack and Ryan Met) appeared before the packed house using every bit of enthusiasm and vigor. It’s not the first time they’ve entertained the Birmingham market; they performed on the same bill as B.o.B. and Karmin at Lakeview’s Tin Roof back in May (Karmin copped out at the last minute, blaming their withdrawal on vocal problems).




The standing room-only crowd – mostly unfamiliar to their small fraction of work – seemed more interested in studying their every move. Lighting up their presentation, lead singer Adam Met paraded across the stage while flirting with percussion, a Maschine Mikro MK2 and a melodica while showing off a Ezra Koegnig geekiness. On opposite sides stood guitarist Ryan and keyboardist Jack, both occasionally lending their voices to lead vocals on certain songs. At times, their presentation felt awkward. It was hard to make out what sounds were pre-produced and what was authentically real. At one point in their thirty minute set they bragged on how everything on their five-track self-titled EP was all produced by them in their New York apartment. The best of the songs was “Infinity,” which rings with radio smartness and flows like Lumineers tucked inside a saturation of youthful pop melodies. The breezy indie pop elements “AfterHours” quickly stirred up emotions in the crowd, preparing the crowd for the Old Crow Medicine Show sing-a-long “Wagon Wheel.” They closed their set with their Beach Boys-inspired “I’m Ready,” which has already racked up over 3 million hits on YouTube.

With Drew Steen’s big booming drum pounds sounding off a rhythmic trance, Stirling hits the Iron City stage hard with a hip-hop soaked “Beyond the Veil.” As her set inches forward, an aggressive canvas of lighting and elaborate graphics and concept videos decorate the packed room. It literally becomes a small screen version of P!nk’s Truth About Love tour. With Steen on drums and Jason Gaviati on keys, Stirling’s set was fueled up with EDM-charged workouts as two agile dancers turn up the volume on her own ballerina-style presentation. Even with all the serenading violin action, she stirs up the crowd with a kind of awe and wonder that one experiences in a Las Vegas night club. One track in particular, “Swag,” featured the instrumentalist showcasing the lightning-speed agility on an urban playground. Mostly all of her songs sported no words, except for “Shatter Me” and “We Are Giants,” but Stirling proved her lyric-empty songs were magical enough for display. Wordless tunes like “Heist” and “Take Flight” were peppered with staged choreography routines with enough plots for a Broadway debut. “Shatter Me” with her brilliant concept video behind her, instantly got knee jerk reaction with the crowd. So did “Crystalize” with its heavy use of Stirling’s arctic worship concept video floating behind her. Not everything inside Stirling’s set matched the standards of razzle-dazzle dubstep. A gorgeous, intimate cover of John Legend’s “All of Me” transformed into a romantic sing-a-long energized by lighters and cell phone flashlights.

While on this tour stop, Stirling didn’t hold anything back. She hardly showed any sign of exhaustion. In between certain songs, she provided some comical relief and occasionally bantered with her crew. There were a few wardrobe changes, including a glow-in-the-dark body suit, which gave off a Wrecking Crew Orchestra buzz. Fans also noticed the nods to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (“Moon Trance”). She chatted about her own struggles growing up and matters of faith. A quick intermission even showed off vintage home video that allowed attendees to get a glimpse of warm, fuzzy childhood memories.  With only two indie albums to show forth and to keep a sold-out show in suspense for two hours, Stirling seems to know most of the secrets to crossing over. The good thing about it is that she isn’t half-stepping in her quest to fame.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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