The band Fountains of Wayne played a free show Wednesday night at the Empire State Plaza ("Rockefeller's Folly") in Albany. The show nominally started at 6:00, but there were two opening acts (one that I missed, and one band with a female singer who wanted very badly to be Gwen Stefani, who covered Lita Ford's "Kiss Me Deadly." Which seemed like an odd choice, but worked for them), so the main show didn't start until 8:30. Additionally, it's been miserably rainy here this week, so the show was moved infdoors, to a room with less-than-ideal acoustics, so things didn't start off especially well.
Once they finally got going, though, it was a good show. Sort of an odd crowd, though-- much more families-with-small-children than the college-age kids I would've expected. Of course, it is the summer, so colleges aren't in session, and free outdoor concerts are probably too dorky to attend. The majority of them seemed not to really know anything but the singles off the current album, and stood perfectly still through the first half-dozen songs from the previous records. They did perk up a bit for the office worker anthem "Hey Julie," and a few people were bouncing up and down for "Stacy's Mom," but overall, it was about as calm as I've ever seen for a headline act.
There wasn't much of a stage show to wow those who didn't already know the songs. For one thing, it's not like they're an incredibly photogenic band-- it's four really skinny and slightly awkward-looking guys. They pretty much came out on stage, stood in front of the mikes, and played the songs straight up, with very little chatter (aside from a few saracastic comments about the big sponsor signs strung up over the stage), and not much modification. It didn't really help that the lighting guy couldn't seem to figure out that lead singer Chris Collingwood doesn't play the guitar solos, and kept the spotlight on him even as actual lead guitarist Jody Porter pulled guitar faces off to the side. Collingwood took to turning his back during the solos, which is about as much motion as we got from him, aside from the occasional semi-ironic guitar flourish.
Then again, if you know the songs, there really isn't much need for a stage show. Their specialty as a band is the carefully crafted three-to-four minute pop song, with a heavy emphasis on the clever lyrics. The songs don't really allow a lot of room for extended guitar freakouts, or anything of the sort (though the guitar breaks on songs from the first album (recorded largely as a duo) were expanded a fair bit). The songs are mostly character sketches, though, so they don't need a lot of instrumental embellishment.