UNIVERSAL CITY, California — As impressive and rockin' as the lineup was for night one of KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas, night two of the Los Angeles-based rock station's popular event was equally action-packed, with the likes of Foster the People, Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons, the Black Keys and six other acts who came together under one roof for a one-night-only sold-out concert engagement at Universal's Gibson Amphitheatre on Sunday night.
Native Los Angeles band Grouplove kicked things off with a festive bang, which included the performances of and lots of dancing to their most recognizable and catchy tunes "Colours" and "Tongue Tied," which is featured in the latest Apple commercial. They were followed by New Zealand-based electro-pop group the Naked and Famous, who kept things grooving with a series of smoothly synthesized upbeat tracks, the crowd-pleaser being the popular anthem-esque "Young Blood."
2011 heavy-hitters Foster the People killed it in the #3 slot. They fed off the very enthusiastic reception from the crowd with just as much energy and as many of their Torches chart toppers as they could fit into their half-hour set, which included "Houdini," "Call It What You Want," "Helena Beat" and an extended version of "Pumped Up Kicks."
Following Foster were two relatively new bands: Cage the Elephant and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Cage delighted the crowd with hits like "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" and "Aberdeen," as well as several stage dives. Gallagher and his High Flying Birds kept things cool with a few more-mellow tunes that, much to the delight of Oasis fans in attendance, included "Wonderwall" and "Sally."
After their exit, a surge of excitement filled the crowd in anticipation for Florence and the Machine to take the stage. What a difference a year makes: Though Florence played last year's Acoustic Christmas and received a huge welcome from the audience, it was clear Sunday night that her fanbase has increased tenfold. Florence's presence has such a transformative effect on her fans — her movement during the songs, the shy smiles she sends out to the masses and that powerhouse voice all have the power to move people to tears. And they did on songs like "If Only for a Night," "Never Let Me Go" and "No Love, No Light."
Florence was a hard act to follow, that's for sure, but just as the audience's energy swelled with anticipation before Welch's vocals rung out in the air, the excitement levels stayed strong for breakouts Mumford & Sons and the Black Keys.
Mumford rocked out so hard during their opening song that lead singer Marcus busted several strings on his guitar. "For those of you who can count, that was three strings I broke. Three," he told the crowd, pleased with himself. "Yesss!" The spirited folk rockers had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands with electrifying performances of "Awake My Soul," "White Blank Page," new tune "Ghosts That We Knew," and hits "Little Lion Man" and "The Cave."
Continuing with the hyped-up energy and momentum flowing through the Gibson toward the end of the evening, the Black Keys rocked the house with a perfect mix of old and new. From the familiar "Howlin' for You," "Next Girl" and "Tighten Up" to the brand-new "Milk and Honey," "Sister" and current hit "Lonely Boy," the guys could have converted almost anyone in attendance to the Church of Keys with the way the audience hung on to every word and guitar stroke. We watched a group of three male fans continue to lose their minds after each song.
"This is so sick!" they said. Again and again and again. And frankly, we have to agree. It was sick. Even better? The proceeds from the 22nd annual event will benefit Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center and Para Los Ninos.