As has become tradition at KROQ’s annual holiday charity show, the station assembled an unbelievably strong lineup of the best alternative rock bands currently treading the boards. This year the talent was divided into two opposing nights, with the newer, indie-rock-leaning acts performing Saturday and the more established, hard-rocking bands playing Sunday. The highlight each evening, however, came from unexpected surprise performances that became the talk of the show.
Night one featured an engaging assemblage of up-and-coming groups, including show opener Keane, which played melodic pop sans guitar and bass; the memorable goth and new wave-inspired the Shins; the fractured country- and folk-flavored Modest Mouse; and the amazing energy of rockers Interpol and the Killers.
But it was a two-song guest turn from No Doubt vocalist Gwen Stefani that stole the show. Led onstage by a marching drum corps, Stefani — promoting her just-released solo album “Love.Angel.Music.Baby” (Interscope) — struck a confident pose as she danced and sang through “Hollaback Girl” and current single “What You Waiting For.” The music is much more dance-oriented than that of No Doubt, and her electric performance nearly brought the house down.
Jimmy Eat World closed the first night with a typically strong offering of favorites from its hit “Bleed American” album, like “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” as well as choice cuts from its new “Futures” collection, highlighted by lead single “Pain.” Jimmy Eat World was also the only band to bring a holiday flavor to its perf: the band’s equipment was covered in holiday lights, the band members tossed presents to the aud, and they played their original yuletide song “Last Christmas.”
The second night boasted a testosterone-filled lineup of hard-rocking outfits, many of which seemed intent on outscreaming and outperforming all the others. My Chemical Romance, the Used, Papa Roach and Chevelle all played energetic 30-minute sets. Social Distortion put on the most musically impressive show, a classy 40-minute perf that sampled the best of the veteran band’s massive back catalog.
Multiplatinum Calabasas quintet Incubus played a solid 45-minute set including such hits as “Nice to Know You,” “Pardon Me” and a nicely rearranged version of “Drive.” The band then started its song “Stellar” and was joined by two former members of the Police — guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland — for a truly transcendent concert moment. “Stellar” became a medley featuring “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” which was followed by full, incredible versions of “Message in a Bottle” and “Roxanne.”
Velvet Revolver, featuring former members of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, then jammed 40 minutes of explosive hard rock, highlighted by its hit song “Slither,” not to mention a rock-solid take on STP’s early hit “Sex Type Thing.”
Green Day closed the two-night event on a strong note with another excellent reading of its entire Grammy-nominated “American Idiot” album, highlighted by the superb title track, as well as “St. Jimmy” and the amazing four-part “Homecoming” medley, by which point the floor in the front of the stage had become a crazed mosh pit.