There is something undeniably optimistic about The Rocket Summer live show.
Maybe it’s the infectious energy Bryce Avary brings to his songs. Maybe it’s his connection with his audience. In any case, the combination of his winning performance and the powerful songs from his excellent “Of Men and Angels” album made his 90-minute set fly by as quickly as one of his sing-along choruses.
Avary said the Highline Ballroom show Friday night was a last-minute idea, announced only two weeks ago because he decided that he wanted to stay out on the road between his stints as the opener for the OneRepublic tour and his upcoming duties opening for the Goo Goo Dolls.
“Tonight is special,” the Texas singer-songwriter said, before busting into a lovely version of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” and declaring the show a house party. Though Avary is at home playing all the instruments on his albums – a talent he proves onstage for “Break It Out,” playing and looping the drums, keyboards and bass lines for the crowd before singing and playing guitar over the loops – his strong backing band allows him to focus on the crowd.
That focus is clear as Avary delivers a powerful “I Want Something to Live For” from the middle of the crowd on the floor and then crowd surfs over them back to the stage. It’s also obvious during his encore medley, where he takes requests from the crowd and bangs them out on his keyboard, including the “Of Men and Angels” standout “Japanese Exchange Student,” which Avary said he hadn’t played onstage before.
Openers Socratic and Lion of Ido helped get the crowd into a good mood for Avary. In the space of its half-hour set, Lion of Ido won over the Rocket Summer crowd, which was largely unfamiliar with the Valley Stream quintet. Kicking things off with the poppy, yet potent “Make You Proud” and the catchy, yet dramatic “Memories,” Lion of Ido quickly showed their range, as well as the effects of their touring, which has tightened them up and made them sound more aggressive.
Singer Ido Zmishlany had the crowd singing along to the bouncy “Hard to Love.” By the time he and bassist Crista Russo were trading “ooh-oohs” and hand claps on the irresistible “Day by Day,” they crowd was fist-pumpingly in their corner, singing along with the chorus of “You just gotta take it day by day, if there’s a will then there’s a way.”
Let’s hope that kind of optimism is contagious.
SETLIST: Hills and Valleys / Do You Feel / Save / You Gotta Believe / Blackbird / Break It Out / Brat Pack / I Want Something to Live For / Roses / I Need a Break... But I’d Rather Have a Breakthrough / Walls / Cross My Heart / So, In This Hour... // ENCORE: Medley: Never Knew/What We Hate, We Make/Japanese Exchange Student/Around the Block/This Is Me/Colors/I Was So Alone / So Much Love / Light
PHOTO: The Rocket Summer's Bryce Avary from Island / Def Jam Records