‘Wrex The Halls’ summarizes this year’s hits

by Courtney Rogin

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Saturday night at Valley View Casino Center played out like a well-oiled musical machine for 91X’s Wrex The Halls first night of two. Playing a sold-out show for thousands of fans, six of today’s most popular alternative bands took to the revolving stage back-to-back.

Kicking off the night, The Naked and Famous opened with “All Of This.” The band spent most of the song working out sound issues with the microphones, which seemed to be fixed by the second song, “Punching in a Dream.”

The Naked and Famous experienced rising success this year, as electronic alternative music is getting its time to shine. After a quick 30-minute set, the band closed out with its hit song, “Young Blood.” The track is made for an arena; it redeemed the band for a lackluster set that struggled to get off the ground.

The Airborne Toxic Event followed with a punk rock set, opening with popular song “Changing.” With such a short set, the cover song “I Fought The Law” could have been substituted for another song from the band’s songbook. “Sometime Around Midnight,” from its self-titled debut album stole the show. The Airborne Toxic Event’s use of strings filled the arena as well as any electric guitar.

Within the blink of an eye, Cage The Elephant dominated the stage with its punk-surf rock. Cage The Elephant has had a Cinderella year, including a co-headlining tour with Manchester Orchestra this summer. “In One Ear” and “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” stood out as the set’s highlights. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” had a more Southern rock twang to it than it normally does. Cage The Elephant mixed elements of metal, surf rock and rock for a creative sound.

The top-billed bands, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Death Cab For Cutie and Florence & the Machine raised the bar in the second half of the night. The high hopes for Noel Gallagher were fulfilled with his most recent musical expedition, which emphasized all good things of arena Brit-rock.

Noel Gallagher took all the great things about Oasis and harnessed them for his own band, leaving out his brother Liam. “Everybody’s On The Run” sounded like a gem from a

modern-day version of the classic Beatles album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

If the audience had any doubts regarding Gallagher, they were erased with the performance of the Oasis classic “Wonderwall.” The song is a tour de force to be reckoned with, even when performed by only one of the Gallagher brothers. Thousands of Oasis fans were able to cross off another moment from their bucket lists. Closing out a wonderful set, Gallagher ended with another Oasis classic, “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”

Death Cab For Cutie is coming up on its 14-year anniversary as a band. In that time, it has built quite a hearty songbook, including eight albums and multiple EPs. How does a band create a 50-minute set list incorporating its entire career? The answer is that it simply can’t. Sacrifices have to be made at some point and audience favorites may be omitted.

Death Cab had no problem filling its set with a great mix of songs, almost exclusively from its past three albums. The middle of the set was full of back-to-back well-known songs. “Soul Meets Body” was a pleasant surprise, followed by “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which received an eight-minute long rendition.

One of the surprising moments was the end-of-set jam session, which included Gibbard playing drums and the band turning into an Explosions in The Sky-style post-rock group for a few minutes. Whatever Death Cab does, it does it well when it comes to live shows. The band flowed through its set and the performance was well planned. In less than an hour, it was done.

Closing out a speedy night was Florence & the Machine. Florence Welch has had quite a year, which included the release of her sophomore album, “Ceremonials.” She is a music powerhouse who made being a female rock star cool again.

Drawing an eclectic crowd, with a large ratio of females, Florence opened her breathtaking set to “Only If For a Night.” Her vocals enveloped the arena and echoed off the walls, sounding as if she were singing five feet away. The music sounded like the soundtrack to some futuristic space-age wilderness to be best explored at night.

“Seven Devils” was a deep, dark song that embodied all the magic that is her music. “Cosmic Love” was the best stage performance throughout the entire night. The lighting matched the lyrics and music perfectly, revealing the crowd every so often so the cameras and phones held up in the sea of people looked like little stars. “Dog Days Are Over” which was immediately followed by “Shake It Out,” created a cathartic overload.

The night featured a quick overview of the best music of the year, almost like putting an iPod on a quick shuffle. 91X satisfied loyal listeners and music fans alike with this year’s holiday show.

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