Owl City Launch Tour in Kansas City

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Owl City / Photo by Todd Zimmer
WRITTEN BY
Timothy Finn

His hour-long show hadn't reached the halfway point Thursday night when Adam Young – the voice and brains of Owl City – threw down his ace. "This is a song about bugs," he told a sold-out crowd of 1,200 at the Beaumont Club in Kansas City.

Then he and his five-piece backup band, which included a two-piece string section (violin, cello), played "Fireflies," the song with which Owl City will immediately and forever be identified. In return, the crowd gave it the kind of response a Tom Petty audience gives "American Girl": a big cheer and a loud, hearty sing-along.

If Owl City is going to be known for something other than its first and biggest hit, it's going to need more songs like that one.Young spent the rest of the night proving that he might have one or two up his sleeve.

His 14-song setlist included 11 of the 12 songs off Ocean Eyes, his major-label debut. His audience looked like a mix of devotees of The Hills and the Disney Channel (and their parents), a demographic that went from 5 years old to 25. Many of them were familiar with what they heard beyong "Fireflies" -- songs like "Vanilla Twilight," "Umbrella Beach," and the encore, "Hello, Seattle."

Young's live performance won't do much to stop the incessant comparisons to the Postal Service, but it did deviate from those similarities several times, thanks in large part to his band, which gave some of his songs a harder edge, and to one of his keyboard players, a woman who laid down some lovely harmonies.

Young didn't have a lot to say to his crowd, save for a couple of hellos and a few thank-yous. One of the warmest moments of the show came very late, during "Hello, Seattle,"when the ladies in the string section stood up front and danced in unison, like the Supremes.

And though he won't ever be acclaimed for his lovelorn lyrics, Young can compose some invigorating rhythms and sweet melodies in differing styles -- from disco to indie-pop.A lot of the songs are somewhat derivative and generic, butfor about an hour on a dreary Thursday night, it was everything 1,200 people in Kansas City wanted to hear.

Owl City's openers were the electro-pop singer Lights (born Valerie AnnePoxleitner) of Toronto and the five-person band Deas Vail of Russelville, Ark. During her 40-minute set Lights, backed by a two-man band (guitar, drums), played several cuts off her album "The Listening," including the title track,"Savior," "February Air," "The Last Thing On Your Mind," and "Drive My Soul."Her style conveyed several influences and similarities, from Dido and Feist to the '80s disco/pop-dance sounds ofthe Communards.Deas Vail opened things up with a 20-minute set that included tracks off its latest album, "Birds & Cages," including "Cages" and "Excuses." Theirs is a sound for anyone intrigued by songwriting that fills a niche between the Fray and OneRepublic.

Owl Citysetlist:
Umbrella Beach
The Bird and the Worm
The Tip of the Iceberg
On the Wing, Air Traffic
Firefiles
Meteor Shower
The Technicolor Phase
The Saltwater Room
Dental Care
Hot Air Balloon
Cave In
Vanilla Twilight
Encore:
Hello
Seattle.

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