To open his show, Adam Young, Mr. Owl City, took the stage dressed like a chicken from the waist up. He then proceeded to run to the drums and bashed on them for a bit, before taking his place as Owl City frontman.
It’s a weird bit of theater, though given the way Young has been savaged by the blogosphere and many critics as a one-hit wonder and Postal Service knock-off, it’d be understandable if he wanted to create a character to hide behind. But after seeing Young and his five-piece backing band command the stage at Terminal 5 for 75 minutes, chicken certainly doesn’t come to mind.
There’s a sweetness and an innocence to Owl City’s music that becomes clearer watching Young onstage. He’s lanky and slightly awkward, sometimes a little too exuberant in the bouncier numbers, especially “Dental Care,” and sometimes a bit too withdrawn – a balance he’ll eventually figure out after he gets more than a year of touring under his belt. But that simply adds to his charm, especially among the overwhelming number of teens and tweens out for a wild Saturday night in the city with Mom and Dad.
And in concert, most of those Postal Service comparisons fall away, though Young’s voice does share a lot of characteristics with Ben Gibbard’s. It turns out many of the seeming similarities came from Young’s use of synthesizers to build the “Ocean Eyes” album by himself in his bedroom in Owatonna, Minn., not because the songs themselves were actually alike.
The live versions of “The Tip of the Iceberg” and the encore “Hello, Seattle” are all-out, disco-thumping dance parties that bear little resemblance to their recorded counterparts.
The elaborate “Cave In” and “This Is the Future” take on a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis feel, with Young’s light vocals keeping the prog-rockish runs from weighing down the songs. And the full orchestration from the band gives songs like “On the Wing” and the opener “Umbrella Beach” a synthesized grandeur, accentuated by the simple light display that simulated exploding fireworks.
Of course, the one song that hasn’t changed much from its recorded version is Young’s smash “Fireflies,” probably the most unlikely No. 1 hit in years, because there’s no reason to mess with success. “Fireflies” became a campfire sing-along and Young seemed only too happy to oblige his young fans with a nice, little concert memory.
However, the rest of the concert showed Young has far bigger musical plans in mind and the chops to pull them off. Owl City is ready for take-off.
SETLIST: Umbrella Beach / The Bird and the Worm / Swimming in Miami / On the Wing / Hot Air Balloon / Dear Vienna / Fuzzy Blue Lights / Cave In / This Is the Future / Dental Care / The Technicolor Phase / Fireflies / Meteor Shower / Vanilla Twilight / The Tip of the Iceberg // ENCORE: Hello, Seattle
PHOTO: Owl City's Adam Young by Associated Press