The second night of KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas 2015 continued at The Forum with the ear-splicing shrieks of young girls mad for James Bay, George Ezra, The 1975, The Neighbourhood and just about every band with a young male pulse. While Saturday's show which might as well have billed indie stalwarts Weezer as headliners - attracted an older crop of KROQ faithfuls, Sunday's show had no shortage of pretty boys in bands or with guitars in their hands. This meant screaming fans were out in full force Beatlemania-style.
Did it just feel like yesterday that Fall Out Boy were still boys and the new kids on the block? As eye-candy bassist, Pete Wentz said "Ten years ago we were the only band playing that didn't have any black t-shirts to sell, now we're headliners!". The band went on hiatus in 2009 then vehemently denied rumors that were reforming three years later, only to then reform in 2013 for the ironically titled "Save Rock And Roll". They are the band most likely to soundtrack your movements as you exit the movie theatre after a Summer popcorn flick - think credit rolls of Big Hero Six ("Immortal") - great movie, terrible song. Or one of Michael Bay's Transformers franchise films.
Never mind, the fangirls kept on shrieking for the headliners, even after six hours into the rock shindig. These must have been the same hordes who aided Fall Out Boy's latest, "American Psycho/ American Beauty" ascend to the top spot on Billboard's Hot 100 earlier this year. It knocked Taylor Swift off her perch.
Before that mega-testosterone 'shlock rock' Of Monsters And Men delivered a decidedly different affair. It was a great set for fans of their Icelandic strand of baroque folk-pop as frontwoman, Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir; co-singer, Ragnor 'Raggi' Porhallsson; and their sprawling band of musicians, performed favorites such as "Dirty Paws", "King and Lionheart" and "Little Talks". They prove that even though Mumford and Sons have abandoned acoustics and banjos to go electric, there is still some steam left in this genre to forge ahead with brass, accordion and such.
Soundgarden and Audioslave's Chris Cornell appealed to everyone in the audience who wasn't a shrieking teen. One of the pioneers of the Nineties grunge sound, Cornell still has the chops. He transformed the massive auditorium into something of an intimate space with his rock balladry. Rolling out a mix of originals - "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart" and "Black Hole Sun" plus covers - "Imagine" and "Nothing compares 2U", he was the only act staying true to the event's 'almost acoustic' moniker.
In contrast Cold War Kids made a lot of noise but the music failed to show a group en forme. Or perhaps it was because their set followed from Panic! At The Disco. The only original member, frontman Brandon Urie did a gigantic and awesome cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" complete with the guitarist's Wayne's World-worthy guitar solo. That did seem to make Urie struggle somewhat with "Victories" which followed immediately. He did sound at times like he might have been recovering from being ill but it did not deter him from doing a back flip off the drummer's podium and belting each song with such gusto.
SoCal's The Neighourhood, Manchester's The 1975, James Bay and George Ezra's sets were all punctuated with deafening screams. Amongst them Ezra stood out in his ability to flirt with the audience, telling them stories of his Euro-rail travels and attending the campy Eurovision Song finals. "I had been through my whole life without ever watching it and I wasn't going to watch it sober ... " he recounted of his stay in Sweden before launching into the worthy earworm, "Budapest".
People are understandably surprised that the deep soulful and honeyed vocals spring forth from this young Hertfordshire lad who has something of the quality of a young Elvis about his good looks. It is also an endearing confidence and self-deprecating humor. "If anyone of you don't like me, it's alright. There's a video on Youtube that you'll really like. I get sh*t on by a bird 2 mins in and by the end am hit by a car". "Awwww...." comes the collective response. He the delivers the song Blame It On Me" but it's his choice of opener "Cassy O" that really wins anyone who might have had doubts about the accolades heaped on him back home in the UK.
Elle King the only solo female act for the second night gave it as good as the men with with her rock and bluesy no-nonsense style from her recent Grammy-nominated album, Love Stuff. Her debut garnered two nods - Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song, for the cheeky "Ex's and Oh's". She owned the KROQ stage with her stunning vocals prompting a response from the crowd as the turntable stage swung round to reveal her on banjo with a rock and roll ensemble of frock and leather jacket.
However unlike the boys she had to ask everything twice to get the kind of response her male counterparts had no problems eliciting without even asking. "I said how are you guys doing tonight?" her raspy voice asked for the second time." And later "Don't make me ask you everything twice."
The Southern Ohio-raised songstress revealed that she was born in Los Angeles and happy to be "in a dreamy sandwich between James Bay and George Ezra" referring to the lineup. She rocked a wonderful cover of "Oh! Darling" by The Beatles straight after and ended on a rousing high with the one-two punch of "Ex's and Oh's" and "Last Damn Night".