After hosting Smashing Pumpkins, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Third Eye Blind on Saturday night, Kroq returned to the Forum in Los Angeles on Sunday for night two of its annual Almost Acoustic Christmas bonanza with some very different sets.
Three of the most memorable acts of the night had one things in common: they’re all women who know how to command a stage, especially headliner Florence + the Machine and frontwoman Florence Welch. Read all the highlights below:
Hail Florence (and her machine)
When Florence + the Machine took the stage for the headlining set, it felt like the air in the room changed. Welch is a stellar live performer — the British musician pours herself into every note and uses the entire stage, commanding something of an ethereal presence. It’s hard not to be mesmerized when she belts out tunes like “Ship to Wreck” and the new “Patricia,” a tribute to Patti Smith, but one of the most memorable moments of the night came with the band’s most popular song, “Dog Days Are Over.”
She addressed the crowd, beginning by telling everyone to embrace and tell their concert neighbors that they love them, and then told everyone to put their phones away. “If you see someone with a phone, politely ask them to please put it away,” she told the audience. And when Florence Welch gives you an order, you listen (no, really; even this journalist, trying to take notes, was politely told by two crowd members, “put your phone away!”) It led to a cathartic moment where audience members, both hands free after putting their phones away, jumped to the final half of Florence + the Machine’s triumphant hit.
Women Steal the Show
Even before Florence + the Machine took the stage, two young women provided some of the most unique and riveting sets, starting with Chvrches, led by vocalist Lauren Mayberry. The small Scottish singer-songwriter has big stage presence, and could have been inspired by Welch herself, twirling in a flowing dress and pacing the stage back and forth. Her vocals never wavered on songs like “Bury It” and “The Mother We Share,” and the booming beats of the pop-synth songs translated into the crowd.
A little later, 16-year-old emerging singer-songwriter Billie Eilish absolutely rocked her set. Taking to a relatively minimalistic stage set-up, Eilish brought attitude and personality to a performance that had been highly anticipated throughout the night. Pop culture references flashed in the background (ranging from Tinkerbell to an entire tribute to “Sherlock” villain Moriarty) as she ran through hits, including the memorable “You Should See Me in a Crown.”
From Linkin Park hits to his own new songs, Mike Shinoda gave a passionate set. But a special moment came in the form of his stripped-down “In the End,” when he beckoned the audience to sing the parts originally sang by Chester Bennington, the late Linkin Park vocalist. It’s not the first time Shinoda has done this — he’s performed this version throughout his recent tour, including at Kroq’s Weenie Roast this past summer — but it’s a beautiful tribute every time regardless without being too somber.
Hits on Hits
When Young the Giant took the stage, they rarely addressed the crowd because, as frontman Sameer Gadhia put it, they were determined to play “as many songs as possible.” And that they did, leading through audience through performances of radio mainstays like “Cough Syrup,” “My Body,” and an especially passionate “Something to Believe In.” Shortly after, Bastille amped up the crowd with its own hits, including “Quarter Past Midnight,” which fittingly turned the rock show into a dance party, and a booming “Pompeii.”
Death Cab for Cutie, having the second-top-billed spot before Florence + the Machine, also rolled through some of their most memorable songs (though, notably, not their most popular, “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark”) for a no-frills performance, focusing only on the music. The band is tight and controlled live, but it could’ve used a little more life after such high-energy sets.
Lovelytheband opened up the show in an act that can best be compared to a good old-fashioned garage band show. Lead singer Mitchy Collins was charming and earnest and, before performing their most popular song “Broken,” gave a touching speech about mental health. “You’re not alone in feeling like this,” he told the crowd. “Asking for help is not weak. Asking for help is absolutely the bravest thing you can do.”
Mike Posner, who took the stage after Lovelytheband, also addressed the crowd with what felt like a sermon at the end of his set, but moreso shined when he got down to the hits, including a rendition of “Ibiza” dedicated to Avicii. A special shoutout has to go to the band’s Jacob Scesney, though, who proved it’s entirely possible to shred on a saxophone.
Read Variety‘s review of Almost Acoustic Christmas night one here.