Review & Photos by Sophie Minello
As a child, I dreamt of attending concerts. I dreamt of seeing the music I loved played in front of me. My first real experience at a concert was in 2015, when AJR toured with Melanie Martinez. I remember practically bouncing off the walls in anticipation the whole day. When I arrived at the venue I pushed the doors open and was greeting with the sounds of AJR. The music wrapped around me like a blanket, and pulled me into the tiny Cambridge Room at the Cleveland House of Blues. That show filled me with everlasting wonder and awe at the art of live music.
Now, two years later, it’s as if I’m experiencing it all again for the first time. The New York band of brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan (AJR) recently released their sophomore album titled ‘The Click’ on June 9, 2017. They followed this release by a headliner tour called the What Everyone’s Thinking Tour Pt. II. Here’s what I’m thinking:
AJR always gives a breathtaking performance.
I arrived at the Grog Shop an hour before doors opened and saw the lines for VIP and regular tickets wrapping around the building. Some people had been patiently waiting since 10 in the morning, ecstatic with the thought of seeing this band of brothers. At 6 o’clock, people rushed in, and the opener Samia came out to play around 7. Their set was very stripped back with only guitars, but the energy level stayed high as they interacted with the crowd and played some darn good music. They got the crowd excited for what was to come, and even got everyone chanting for AJR once their set was over. Through the chants you could hear the pre-show playlist, and if you closed your eyes, you might be able to imagine yourself in Disneyland or some other magical world. To give you a taste of the playlist, I remember hearing the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme song. This certainly set a mood.
When AJR hopped onstage, the crowd erupted with noise and excitement. There were people of all different ages all around me, but every person cheered passionately as the band took the stage. At first it was just Jack, holding up a metronome then using a device to create sounds similar to the overture songs on their albums. Then his brothers joined together to open the night with the song I’m Not Famous.
There wasn’t one point in the show where I could look around and see the crowd at a stand still. People were constantly moving to the music, dancing and jumping and waving their arms. AJR heightened the crowds’ enthusiasm by constantly interacting with them. Ryan would turn to the crowd and make sure everyone was having a good time and singing as loud as they could, even though fans were already singing on the top of their lungs. Jack even pointed out a girl who was solely wearing AJR merch and explained how meaningful fan support such as that meant to them.
At one point there were a few technical difficulties with the background tracks for the show (but you’d never know if you weren’t standing next to their laptop). The boys took this as an opportunity to play a cover of the Khalid song Location. This was a treat, and those who were familiar with the song sang along while those who didn’t know it swayed happily. My personal favorite moment of the show was when AJR sat down and showed us how they make their remixes. They walked us through how they created a beat and then layer it with sounds. For this demonstration, they first used a Kanye song. But, of course, they weren’t satisfied with it. They began another remix with a police siren as a tribute to their hometown of New York, but then had a better idea. They created a remix out of someone saying the word Cleveland, which most definitely revived the crowd’s energetic cheering. It was heartwarming to know how much thought and care they put into this little Cleveland show, since they explained how this little lesson wasn’t a normal part of the set. Their remixes truly amazed me, they can take a song such as Hi Ho from Snow White and craft it into a whole different piece. It’s truly magical to watch them at work.
At the end of the night, AJR played their popular song I’m Ready and encored with Weak. The boys took their bow and everyone cheered just as loud as they did in the beginning of the night. There was a layer of astonishment that floated around the room once AJR dispersed, so much so that no one moved or even knew what to do for a few seconds. I remember having the same feeling 2 years ago in the Cambridge Room of the House of Blues, and I made sure to take note of the feeling. It’s not everyday that you experience something for the first time again.