You know how movies are sometime described as “The Feel-Good Hit of the Year?” That’s exactly how I felt about X Ambassadors’ performance at Old National Centre last weekend. It wasn’t one thing in particular; it was the combination of great musicianship, relatable lyrics, and a whole bunch of people doing and sharing something they love. There was no moshing, surfing, or middle fingers in the air, but there was tremendous energy and an abundance of positive vibes from X Ambassadors and their enthusiastic fans.
X Ambassadors, who are currently on tour in support of their newest album, “Orion,” started their set with “HEY CHILD,” the second single released from the album. The slick, bluesy number, was a good choice – the moderate tempo allowed frontman Sam Harris to really work the crowd. He half-strolled, half-danced his way across the stage while alternately crooning and belting out the lyrics.
The pace was quicker for the next two songs, which were “Jungle” from VHS, and “BOOM’ from “Orion.” (Sidenote: I’ve since listened to “BOOM” at least a dozen times – what a great tune!) Overall, the setlist was well-paced and well-balanced, with a nice mix of new and old tunes. I felt that it showcased Harris’s amazing vocals as he nailed and sustained some impressive high notes. The variety of musical styles in the X Ambassadors’ repertoire includes pop, rock, R&B, blues, hip hop, electronic, country and gospel, and all were well represented Saturday night. To me, this is the epitome of the Indie genre – it’s just good stuff, and it all comes from the soul.
The New-York based trio, which consists of Sam Harris on vocals, sax, and guitar, keyboardist Casey Harris (yes, they’re brothers), and drummer Adam Levin, have been making music together for years, and it showed in the way they performed together. They were passionate, yet polished. They were also confident enough in their own skills to feature their touring guitarist, who had a killer solo during “Gorgeous”, and their touring bassist/keyboardist, who had a vocal duet with Harris.
Although everyone on stage deserved attention, it was hard for me to take my eyes off Harris. His stage presence was incredible! I could tell from the big grin on his face, as well as by his body language, that he truly loves what he does, and his lyrics come from his heart. He also knows how to woo an audience – all night he charismatically charmed concertgoers by engaging them with eye contact, talking to them, and at the end of the show, walking along the barrier and making physical contact with them. He seemed remarkably humble, frequently expressing gratitude for their love and support. He also promised them that “X Ambassadors concerts will always be a safe place for you to be yourself.” You could tell this message resonated with the crowd by the huge cheers it drew.
The 14-song set ended with “Renegades,” X Ambassadors’ #1 hit. It immediately turned into a sing-along. To be perfectly honest, I’ve not been a huge fan of that song, but hearing it being performed live, and seeing the joy on the fans’ faces, made me change my mind about it, and I found myself singing along, too. Everyone in the Egyptian Room (myself included) was hoping for an encore, which we got in the form of “JOYFUL,’ an uplifting, affirmative gospel-ish song from “Orion.” I loved that the show ended on such a positive note – that song was the perfect ending for an amazing show!