Playing a show Labor Day weekend, when many leave town to enjoy the last bit of summer, may have been cause for concern for electro-rock quartet Foster the People, but the band had nothing to worry about as a nearly sold-out crowd welcomed them to Spokane for the first time Sunday at the Knitting Factory.
Behind the band onstage, a giant neon light spelled out “Sacred Hearts Club,” the name of the band’s third album, which was released in July.
And though about a third of the band’s set list came from “Sacred Hearts Club,” Foster the People – guitarist/pianist Sean Cimino, singer/guitarist Mark Foster, keyboard player/bassist/percussionist Isom Innis and drummer Mark Pontius – also treated fans to tunes from its debut album “Torches” and sophomore release “Supermodel.”
The band appropriately kicked the show off with “Pay the Man,” the first song on “Sacred Hearts Club.”
“Helena Beat,” from “Torches,” followed, then it was back to new music with “SHC.”
The crowd was just as excited to hear new songs, like “Doing It For the Money,” as they were for old favorites like “Don’t Stop (Color On the Walls),” from “Torches,” both of which drew big cheers.
When they did play older songs, Foster the People made them feel new with instrumental interludes, like the one that closed “Are You What You Want to Be?,” from “Supermodel,” and the one that joined the band’s cover of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” to “Pseudologia Fantastica,” also from “Supermodel.”
During the first of its two-song encore, the band also expanded “Houdini,” from “Torches,” with a musical break that featured drum solos from both Innis and Pontius.
Elements like those mini-jam sessions made it feel as if the band brought the experimentative process with which it created “Sacred Hearts Club,” which included Foster returning to his stream-of-consciousness manner of writing and even briefly moving back in with his parents, to the rest of its discography. Though no doubt rehearsed, these interludes felt fresh and exciting for both the band and the audience.
In another exciting moment, the band played “III,” off “Sacred Hearts Club,” live for the first time.
“We’ve been touring this record since before it came out,” Foster told the crowd. “Sometimes when you tour a record before it comes out, you don’t play it all the way through because you’re trying to figure out how to flip it and work it out.”
There was a brief hiccup at the very beginning of the song – “See, I told you it’s the first time,” Foster said – but “III” otherwise went off without a hitch.
The band then played crowd favorite “Coming of Age” and new single “Sit Next to Me,” which Foster said was about seeing the one person in a crowd “you have history with or want to have history with” and wanting to tune everything else out and just talk with them.
The crowd was more than happy to sing along to “Miss You” when Foster pointed his microphone in their direction. After the song, Foster talked about the inspiration behind the new album.
“Working on this record, before I would go to the studio, I would look at the news and my stomach would drop. A bombing there, a shooting there, the refugee situation in Syria, the political climate in our own country,” he said.“The greatest weapon against oppression is joy. I needed joy, people needed joy.”
Foster then condemned racism, homophobia, sexism, fascism and the idea that everyone should think the same way.
“Our differences are what makes things interesting,” he said.
“Black, brown, white. Jewish, Christian, Muslim. Man, woman. That’s what makes you who you are … Love will always be greater than politics … Politicians aren’t going to do it. Career politicians just want to be in power. It’s day-to-day interactions you have with people that can make a difference.”
The band then launched into what is perhaps the song it’s best known for, “Pumped Up Kicks,” a deceptively cheery song written from the perspective of a troubled teen that calls attention to gun violence among teens.
As a whole, it was a heavy moment, but one that came off as heartfelt, not preachy.
“Loyal Like Sid and Nancy” from “Sacred Hearts Club” closed the main portion of the show, with the band returning to the stage to play, as previously mentioned, “Houdini” and “Call It What You Want,” also from “Torches.”
With a few waves and a group bow that included touring members Phil Danyew and Tyler Halford, Foster the People left the stage, leaving a great first impression and no doubt making those who stuck around town glad they did.
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