By James Biagiotti
Six years ago, when Foster the People’s debut album Torches was released, the group seemed to be on a rapid rise to superstardom. The single “Pumped Up Kicks” became a massive crossover hit in 2011 and catapulted Mark Foster’s newly formed band to prominence and a record deal. By the time the Los Angeles based indie-pop band reached the stage of the Fillmore Miami Beach on Wednesday night, the group was three albums deep into its career and seemed to be running in place.
The group has followed a unique track since its initial success with “Pumped Up Kicks,” delving into psychedelia for its sophomore album Supermodel before experimenting with a more electronic sound for this year’s Sacred Hearts Club, its weakest offering to date.
Though Foster’s band may not be headlining festivals and arenas like many would have expected at this point in his career, it has certainly developed a strong and fervent fan base. When the group brought its Sacred Hearts Club tour to South Florida on Wednesday night, it performed to a packed house filled with attendees of all ages.
The night’s opener, L.A. based garage rock group Cherry Glazerr, was a pleasant surprise, bucking the crowd’s expectations of indie-pop in favor of a noisey sound that was closer to grunge than to anything by Foster the People. The group had the volume cranked up as loud as I’ve ever heard it at the Fillmore for its 30-minute set, which included standout tracks “Had Ten Dollaz” and “Told You I’d Be with the Guys.” Frontwoman Clementine Creevey was a blast to watch on stage, and seemed to relish the opportunity to perform to such a large crowd.
With fans’ ears still ringing from Cherry Glazerr, Foster the People took the stage at 9:15, opening with “Pay the Man,” the first track off of Sacred Hearts Club. The six-piece band at first featured two drummers, two keyboardists, a guitarist, and frontman Mark Foster on vocals. Throughout the night, the rhythm section backing Foster bounced from one instrument to another during transitions between songs.
Make no mistake, Foster the People is Mark Foster’s group, as evidenced by his position as the only musician at the front of the stage, with the rest of the group performing behind him. The stage setup featured a massive neon sign that read “Sacred Hearts Club” on the wall behind the band, which changed colors and flashed along with an elaborate light show throughout the evening.
The Fillmore, which is usually known for its superior sound quality, struggled with the transition from the cacophonous opening set to the lush pop sensibilities of the headlining act, resulting in muddled sound throughout the night. Vocals could often barely be discerned, and lead guitar and piano lines got lost in the mix, failing to speak out over the rest of the instruments.
The large crowd reacted with fervor towards tracks from the group’s first record, Torches, and seemed to only tolerate the tracks from Sacred Hearts Club, many of which fell flat when juxtaposed next to the band’s earlier hits.
The group found time for a few notable inclusions in the two-hour set, like covers of New Order’s “Blue Monday” and the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” as well as the live debut of “I Love My Friends” from Sacred Hearts Club.
Standout tracks from the headlining set included “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon,” which proved to be the heaviest song by the main act, and the obligatory inclusion of “Pumped Up Kicks,” which was preceded by a brief speech from Foster addressing the current political climate.
“Don’t worry about the small things,” Foster told the crowd. “Love each other. Life is hard enough already, and love will always be greater than politics.”
The band closed the main set with “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy,” which felt like an embarrassing misfire, before an encore that featured fan-favorite tracks “Houdini” and “Call It What You Want” to end the night on a positive note.
Though Mark Foster exuded positive energy throughout the set and successfully kept the crowd animated and involved, he couldn’t overcome the poor audio quality and disappointing material from Sacred Hearts Club to put together a truly great show. After a fun but not quite satisfying two-hour set, it was clear why Foster the People’s career trajectory has stalled out.
1) Pay the Man
2) Helena Beat
3) Life on the Nickel
4) Doing It for the Money
5) Pseudologia Fantastica
6) Harden the Paint
7) Warrant (with New Order’s “Blue Monday” postlude)
8) Are You What You Want to Be?
9) Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
10) Lotus Eater
11) Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones cover)
12) Goats in Trees
13) Coming of Age
14) I Love My Friends (live debut)
15) Sit Next To Me
16) Miss You
17) A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon
18) Pumped Up Kicks
19) Loyal Like Sid & Nancy
21) Broken Jaw
22) Call It What You Want