If there is a single guideline for bands performing in Pittsburgh, it is to never offend Steel City football.
The audience at Stage AE witnessed this cardinal sin committed onstage Tuesday night by the unapologetic Cincinnati band, Walk the Moon.
“When I think of Pittsburgh, I think of how badass Steelers fans are,” lead singer Nicholas Petricca said. “Badass, slash obnoxious.”
Obnoxious? Don’t you know you’re playing with fire, Petricca? Fortunately for any disgruntled fans, he was only teasing.
“I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Petricca said. “You got to admit, a little obnoxious and that’s what makes you cool.”
The band cut into a crisp and inviting version of “Different Colors,” a song about turning the volume up to silence any critics. Petricca flaunted authoritative vocals with expert dexterity behind a synthesizer. He soaked up the fever of the crowd while Eli Maiman barrelled through the guitar track. The lyric “we know the kids are right” quickly became the motto of the mosh pit.
We will let the earlier Steelers comment slide. There is no use debating frivolous matters with the princes of alt-pop.
Walk the Moon, the four-piece band that climbed chart positions with its hypnotic melodies and musical charm, is on its 47th tour date for its Press Restart Tour. Pittsburgh was the group’s eighth stop on a worldwide trip that will end mid-April in Scotland.
Company of Thieves, an indie ensemble from Chicago, performed as the opening act. The band is led by Genevieve Schatz, who told the Phoenix New Times that she “sing[s] like [her] hair is on fire.”
As an opening act, Company of Thieves did not disappoint. Its music is folkie in some areas, yet at times it seems the group has an interest in tinkering with the grunge genre. “Younger” exhibited the almost operatic vocals of Schatz, while Marc Walloch’s thrashing guitar made for a hellish rendition of “Gorgeous/Grotesque.”
Schatz’s singing voice was remarkably mature, but conversing with the crowd revealed her whimsical personality. She seemed delighted to be touring alongside Walk the Moon.
“They’re the biggest bunch of sweethearts you’ll ever meet,” Schatz said. “I’m friends with all of them … they’re beautiful human beings.”
Following the opener from Company of Thieves, Walk the Moon launched into its set with “Press Restart” — the leadoff song from its latest album, “What If Nothing.” The song is unearthly theatrical in nature as it indulges in the concepts of space and the future. Not only did the create an odd mystique for the band — the tune enveloped the audience from the first note.
Petricca stretched his arms, gently flapping them as his striped poncho dangled over what appeared to be cutout leggings. Pop artists never cease to be fashion-forward.
“Portugal,” the next song in the set, seemed to draw on influences from ’80s new wave with its bubbly synth lead — a sound that was integral to Walk the Moon’s entire set. Bassist Kevin Ray fed off the crowd’s enthusiasm — with a drumstick in hand, he sprang over a floor tom drum, striking it the minute the beat dropped as drummer Sean Waugaman played in pure percussion frenzy.
They proceeded to play the crisp “Lisa Baby” off their 2010 debut album, “I want! I want!” Maiman delivered the lethally screeching electric guitar sound — making it clear that he deserves greater musical recognition for moments like this.
Fans may be tempted to revisit earlier Walk the Moon content, but the new material from “What If Nothing” could be their most exceptional work to date. Just listen to the aptly titled single, “Kamikaze,” a stormy rager that had Stage AE chanting the chorus, or Petricca’s airy vocal effort on “All I Want.”
“You want to take a moment during this [next] song to just pull up that special person just a little bit closer to you,” Maiman said. “Think about yourselves for a moment.”
On that note, Walk the Moon slid into “Aquaman,” a flirty fantasy track about swimming across the dance floor. It was starting to look like a couple’s skate at Stage AE as the band continued to subdue the mood with “Surrender.”
That feeling was only temporary, ending as soon as Petricca broke full speed into an unrestrained solo dance for “Tightrope.” His Fitbit must have been ready to explode.
“Shut Up and Dance” — the intoxicating dance number that Petricca and Co. are best known for — served as the apex for a night of relentless crowd-thrillers. There was a lot of pride streaming from Walk the Moon as they performed a song that demanded the audience let the band’s sugary sound take over. To no one’s surprise, the audience gleefully complied. Obnoxious, but still cool.