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Foster the People More Than “Pumped Up”

If you asked an average person to imagine a Foster the People live show, they would likely imagine a several-hour-long affair comprised solely of various renditions of the hit single “Pumped Up Kicks.” But on Thursday, September 29, the emerging indie-pop band showed that they’re more than just one-hit wonders. The concert was an electrifying performance of their latest album, “Torches,” and was equal parts spectacle and dance party.

While the indie-pop haze of “Pumped Up Kicks” catapulted Foster the People onto the music scene, the rest of their album is even poppier. The heavy bass and upbeat sound of most of their songs make them particularly good dance pieces that translate very well to a live performance. The set drove the audience into a wild frenzy of hopping, waving, flailing, and grinding, and they were spurred all the more by lead singer Mark Foster’s unbridled performance. The succession of fast and fun songs only broke once for a performance of the unreleased ballad, “Ruby,” which provided a welcome release from the otherwise unrelenting pace. Immediately following that brief respite, the concert’s energy mounted fiercely, culminating in an epic performance of “Pumped up Kicks,” the running time of which almost doubled. Mark Foster topped his already vivacious live performance with a delirious energy that he poured into his heightened vocals and fierce back-up drumming.

Their musical performance preserved the quality of their recorded work. Despite an absence of the sort of effects that helps give “Pumped Up Kicks” its unique sound, the group played with a well-worn precision. Mark Foster in particular demonstrated a wide range of musical talent throughout the performance, and he was almost constantly switching among vocals, keyboard, guitar, percussion, and synthesizer. Indeed, the only moments when he wasn’t moving were those when he was constrained by his stationary keyboard. This constant movement is what characterized the group’s strong suit. Within a few songs, the band had danced themselves into a heavy sweat that only grew heavier over the course of the evening.

The audience gave an equally intense, loud, and physical reaction. One gentleman became so enthused during “I Would Do Anything for You” that he leaped on the back of his friend and removed his shirt while shouting, “We love you Foster!” The lead singer literally felt the audience’s enthusiasm when an eager fan threw her bra directly into his face during the second song, “Miss You.” The bra, which remained on the mic stand for much of the performance, served as a constant reminder of the equal passions of band and audience.

This sort of audience engagement was not present during the opening acts. Though it was of course expected for most of the fan base to be supporting Foster the People, roughly two-thirds of the concert was played by the openers. Because Foster the People have only released one album, the openers bore the onus of lengthening the concert to a full three hours. All three of the bands gave fantastic performances, but while the limited material from Foster the People was expected, the audience seemed unhappy about waiting even through good openers for only an hour of the headliner, especially when Foster the People only played one more song than opening act Cults.

Nonetheless, when Foster the People did come out, the audience went crazy, and the live performance surpassed expectations to reveal the band’s full talent. Indeed, Foster the People played an 11-song set that included all but one of their album’s songs, and the brevity of their set, while necessitating the lengthy opening acts, allowed Foster the People to reach a level of intensity that would have been more difficult to sustain over the course of a longer show. Though the evening was short enough to ensure that “Pumped Up Kicks” remained the focus of the evening, the band’s unfaltering delivery of the rest of their album’s equally appealing if different content suggests that more hits may lie in their future.

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