OneRepublic delivers surreal performance

The masses were out. The air at the Austin 360 Amphitheater was charged with anticipation. Teens were spending unreasonable amounts of cash on over-priced t-shirts (this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity though, wasn’t it?). Somewhere far off from where we stood in line, opening act Jamie Scott had already begun. His performance was watched only by the few who had actually arrived on time and were not delayed by having to park a mile away.

As the second opening act, Christina Perri, pranced on stage, however, the stadium began to fill. She walked straight to the piano and smiled brightly. “This song is about an a**hole,” she grinned, her words not matching her expression in the slightest. She then proceeded to play “Jar of Hearts,” flawlessly. She continued with her set list, the epitome of pep and glee.

The concert was supposed to start at 7 o’clock but OneRepublic didn’t go on until 9, which, naturally, seemed to be common knowledge to everyone but me. So you can imagine the thrill that jolted me when, finally, “Don’t Look Down” began to vibrate through the venue. Immediately, those who had drifted to concessions began to make their way to their seats, and the already seated sat up taller.

I’d never thought much of cellists. You usually only see them in orchestras, but when the lone cellist came out and started the melody of “Secrets” I couldn’t have been more in love with the sound if I tried.

There are few mainstream artists these days that sing about anything but love, sex or getting stoned/drunk, which is why OneRepublic is so refreshing. They talk about life and how good it is  (“Good Life” is a always a crowd pleaser). I always find myself looking on the bright side of things when listening to lead singer Ryan Tedder sing soulfully. As stated in “Come Home,” (a personal favorite) “The world ain’t half as bad as they make it to be.” His point was emphasized when “What a Wonderful World,” was performed near the end. One of the highlights of the concert actually happened while OneRepublic performed “Good Life.” Tedder changed the lyrics from “To my friends in New York, I say hello,” to “my friends in Austin…” while flashing pictures from all over downtown Austin on the big screens. Being the narcissists that we are, the crowd went wild to see pictures of our town and hear it mentioned in a song we’ve been listening to for years.

It’s all about creativity with lyrics these days — taking something that’s been said a thousand times and putting a unique twist on it to bring an old phrase to a new light. If you compare the band’s humble origins with their current success, it’s obvious OneRepublic has something special — a secret weapon, if you will — Ryan Tedder.

Tedder, age 35, has been the “frontman” of the band since 2002. Aside from being a talented vocalist and musician (acoustic and bass guitar, piano, drums and clarinet among other things), he has an underrated career as a songwriter (named the “Undercover King of Pop” by Billboard magazine in early 2014). He’s written not only for Beyoncè, Adele and Maroon 5, but also for Carrie Underwood, Gavin Degraw, Ellie Goulding and Kelly Clarkson. Other members of the band include Zach Filkins (guitar, viola), Eddie Fisher (drums) and Brent Kutzle (bass guitar, cello, piano).

The band made funny remarks and flirted with the crowd. During “Something I Need,” Tedder borrowed the camera from the man “officially” filming the concert and started filming the crowd. It was then that I realized how proud I was of those people dancing around on stage. I guess I was expecting something else.  After all, with all the auto-tune going on, you never know exactly how performers will sound live. It was better than the recording — the sound was so much more full and vigorous in real life. Every note was played with purpose and OneRepublic sounded better live than in recordings. The thing about concerts is that you’re crowded into a space with thousands of strangers, yet when the music starts it’s like you’re all connected to each other — singing, laughing, screaming together for one night I’d never forget.