On Tuesday and Wednesday at the end of May, three of the hottest new names in music came to Central Park SummerStage – Foster the People, The Kooks, and Kimbra. Each act has been getting a lot of attention as of late, thanks to their own individual, highly catchy forms of pop with an alt-twist, plus killer singles. And it was the perfect way to celebrate the start of summer – and the start of heading back outdoors.
First up on May 29th & 30th was Kimbra. The New Zealand native first got on everyone’s lips & ears thanks to contribution to “Someone I Used To Know” by Australia’s Gotye (QRO album review), one of the top singles this year, as well as her tour (QRO photos) with Gotye (QRO photos), which included appearing on Saturday Night Live (QRO Indie on Late Night TV). But now Kimbra is coming out in her own right, thanks to her new Vows, which had debuted at #14 on the Billboard charts that very week.
An energetic and infectious performer on stage, Kimbra only got to do a handful of Vows, as she was the first opener. She also had to start right at 6:00 PM – shows at SummerStage (QRO venue review) start early & on time. But the still-bright sun shone nicely upon her, and there was a strong crowd despite the early hour, who definitely enjoyed her dance-y bop with alt-diva undertones.
Of the three acts playing SummerStage those two days, The Kooks were the relative ‘veteran’ – but only in the most relative of terms, as the British boys are anything but old. The lads from Brighton had a breakthrough all the way back in 2006 with wonderful single “Naïve” and debut Inside In/Inside Out, but unlike the acts before & after them at SummerStage those two nights, they’ve got more than one full-length out, having since followed up Inside with 2008’s Konk (QRO review) and last year’s Junk of the Heart (QRO review). They’ve even played Central Park SummerStage before, having headlined it back in late 2008 (QRO review).
As befits any band touring off their third record, it and the first LP got most of the set list for The Kooks, with only set-opener “Always Where I Need To Be” from Konk. Singer/guitarist Luke Pritchard was active from the start, going up to the lip of the stage at various times & various places, always eliciting squeals of delight from the ladies in the crowd. Thankfully it was still sunny out when The Kooks performed, as their alt-pop is as youthful as the band, and nicely designed for the start of summer. The Kooks only got to do twelve songs at SummerStage, but headlining gigs will surely beckon after they wrap up their stint with Foster in early June down south. Most importantly, The Kooks closed with their two best pieces, the oh-so-summery-and-enjoyable latest single, “Junk of the Heart (Happy)” (and indeed it was) and, of course, the still-great “Naïve”.
Hopefully The Kooks imparted some ‘elder statesman wisdom’ on Foster the People about how to keep it going after a killer breakthrough single, because Foster have that in one of last year’s biggest jams, “Pumped Up Kicks”. Foster has just the one album, last year’s well received debut full-length Torches (QRO review), and needed to play all of it and more for a headlining show.
More electro than Kimbra or The Kooks, Foster’s set actually picked up as the sun went down – and their light show went up. They even had some new songs, bringing Kimbra on for the new “Warrior” (the lady knows how to guest-spot). And, like The Kooks, they saved the hottest for last, returning for an encore with “Pumped Up Kicks” (though not playing it until then did mean that you knew they were going to do a scheduled encore…) – and instead of just ‘playing the hit’ that everybody knows, Foster the People expanded the song with a remix outro to close the night.
Central Park SummerStage’s ‘official’ season only starts on June 5th with a gala (QRO NYC Show Preview) – oddly the same night that pseudo-rival NYC outdoor summer series Celebrate Brooklyn! begins its season at Prospect Park Bandshell (QRO venue review). However, the SummerStage space is rented out before & after that, at the start & end of summer, for ticketed shows (there are also some ticketed shows in benefit of the otherwise-free SummerStage, including Foster the People & Kimbra returning to SummerStage on June 11th, with main opener Tokyo Police Club – QRO spotlight on). And there couldn’t have been a sweeter way to start this outdoor summer than with two nights – and days – of Foster the People, The Kooks, and Kimbra.