A long line of kids dressed in black, wearing Vans, dad hats and flannels stood outside Irving Plaza on Thursday night. Citizen’s headlining tour, coming off the band’s newest release “As You Please,” struck New York City. Openers Sorority Noise and Great Grandpa enhanced the show and helped fill out the lineup, respectively.
Great Grandpa began the night, but left most of the crowd snoozing. Sorority Noise brought the crowd to life, swinging in with hits such as “Nolsey,” “No Halo” and “Using.” The ever-grateful band electrified a newly-awakened audience. Guitarist Adam Ackerman took it upon himself to climb onto a platform next to the stage and channeled his inner ‘80s rock star as he shredded 20 feet above the audience.
The crowd was absolutely deafened as the lights cut to black and Citizen took the stage. Riding the high off a new album release just three weeks prior, the band carried the confidence of men on a mission.
This persona was an act, as guitarist Nick Hamm stated. He confessed his nervous fear that the venue would be empty. The house was anything but — packed bodies edged forward just to reach the stage, all pushing and moving to the heavy music.
The band wasted no time bouncing into its first single off the record, “Jet,” to an enthusiastic crowd. Even though new releases are usually faced with a quiet, less excited crowd, Citizen was met with the opposite reaction. The audience had the lyrics down, screaming so loud vocalist Matt Kerekes often turned his microphone toward the audience. The opening song set the tone for the night — heavy, powerful and angry. There were moments of reflection, as the band eased next into its slower release, “In the Middle of It All.”
Citizen’s 2013 album “Youth” also captured the attention of long-time fans. The crowd was most animated during throwbacks such as “Sleep,” “Roam the Room,” and “The Summer.” Elements of the crowd-favorite album are still heavily prevalent in the band’s newest release, but they have shown a slow rise toward rock maturity.
Throughout the night, crowd surfers dominated the scene and kept the night just as rowdy as the band did. Even security guards took to head-banging — a rare but comical sight. The live set was incredibly tight, each member in tune with each other, a practiced sort of perfection. The talented group presented its work with a take it or leave it attitude, never apologizing or shying away from the music’s message. The crowd responded with the same fierce dedication.
No moment was more telling than the band’s poignant piece, “The Night I Drove Alone.” Suicidal tendencies and harsh realities were plainly stated in the lyrics. Kerekes was never more honest than when he sang, “I should’ve crashed the car, the night I drove alone.” The audience felt every lyric of the painful song as it screamed loud enough to shatter glass.
The band had a plain, rag-tag look. The band members were not flashy or interested in dressing to impress. In fact, the Ohio natives blended in with the world around them. Citizen’s simplicity is its greatest asset because talent always shines through. The band has not reinvented itself — it sticks to the same basic formula for success, yet tailors it slightly with every release. There is a resilience and empowering element to Citizen’s live shows that leave audience members with a heavy heart but a hopeful outlook. As long as Citizen is still yelling about love, loneliness and pain, we all can push forward in times of hurt.
Email Brandi Powell at [email protected].