By CHEYENNE KERN
On Monday Jan. 20, AJR headlined at the Anthem in Washington D.C. for the later end of their “Neotheater World Tour.” The concert featured many songs that the band performed at the UMW spring concert last year, along with many new songs from their latest album, “Neotheater.” Unlike the show at UMW that did not acknowledge any of the band’s songs from their first album, “Neotheater” paid homage to many of their past songs.
In a visually enticing transition to “The Entertainment’s Here,” trumpet player J.J. Kirkman walked in place on stage in front of a pink grid as he performed a mashup of various past songs with fans proudly singing the lyrics. The band also revived the bit used at UMW in which they lead into a song by showing how they created and produced the key sounds.
Overall, “Neotheater,” the album and tour, have a greater focus on the themes of growing up, graduating and the emotional turmoil associated with the transition into adulthood than their former album and show at UMW.
At the spring concert, AJR included two songs from the “Neotheather” album before it was released. One song, “Don’t Throw Out my Legos,” focused on growing up and moving out, a sentiment that resonated heavily with some students who attended the show on campus. While some of these attendees were long-time fans and others became fans at the show, people from both parties report seeing AJR again at the Anthem in part due to the emotional connection that the band made with those going through the same growing pains their music encompasses.
One recent UMW graduate and biology major, Carina Martin, attended the spring concert prior to graduation and was heavily affected by “Don’t Throw Out my Legos.” The song was a very unexpected and accurate representation of the emotions she was feeling at the time.
She said, “They took me out of my denial and made me face the fact that I was about to be an adult and that things were going to get uncomfortable, but that there was a lot to be excited about too.”
The reaction she had to the concert prompted her closest friends at UMW to give her tickets to the Anthem show as a graduation gift. After making the transition herself and adjusting to adult life, she had a different experience. She said, “Seeing them this time showed me how far I had come since then, and that song made me happy.”
Another student, junior Anna Beth Tanner, reported having a different emotional connection to the band after seeing them on campus. She said, “I was an orientation leader and a few of us were sitting at one of the HCC study rooms listening to AJR and we all looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s buy tickets!’ so we got excited and got our tickets right then and there.”
Senior Katlin Lawrence related to the college age connection and said, “it’s kind of interesting to listen to someone your age struggle with the same things you are and see them come out successful while doing it. But their album ‘Neotheater’ combined all the feelings of anticipation, doubt, excitement and uncertainty that most people our age, graduating college, are also going through which makes it really relatable and seeing them in concert again really drove that home for me.”
It is very clear that AJR’s music resonated very deeply with students and that the timeline of releasing “Neotheater,” playing at UMW and playing at the Anthem aligned with many of the emotions UMW students were dealing with. Their music and performances help to make this highly transitional phase of life a little less scary and lonely for those going through it with the band.