LIVE: Albany Tulip Festival @ Washington Park, 5/9/15 (Day One)
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Timothy Reidy
Albany’s Tulip Festival is typically the harbinger of spring, the first big volley into the vast array of outdoor music fests that populate the Nippertown concert calendar. But with temperatures in the mid-80s and the sun blazing down in Washington Park all afternoon for Day One of the fest, it felt more like a hot, mid-summer celebration.
And the Kooks delivered the goods with a bristling headlining set on the Parade Grounds’ main stage, drawing from a surprisingly wide variety of contemporary pop styles. Led by singer-guitarist Luke Pritchard, the British quartet (plus one guitarist-backing vocalist semi-hiding behind a stack of amplifiers), cracked open their 75-minute show with “Around Town,” the opening track of their latest album, “Listen.” They quickly won over the crowd – which was seemingly at least twice as large as it was for the two earlier bands – diving right into the call-and-response of “Bad Habit,” with the audience heartily shouting back at the band.
They brought blasts of big, bouncy pop with “She Moves in Her Own Way’ and “See the Sunrise,” as well as strident rock with “It Was London.” But with the ace rhythm section of bassist Peter Denton and new drummer Alexis Nunez bringing more of a funk and soul edge to the songs than the average band of Brit-popsters, the Kooks churned their way through the funky dance-rock of “Forgive & Forget” (the crowd eagerly singing along), the soulful “Sweet Emotion” and the Squeeze-like “Westside” (an enthusiastic audience clap-along).
Pritchard offered a pair of solo acoustic guitar numbers mid-set – “Dreams” and the jaunty “Seaside,” which borrowed heavily from the British music hall tradition – and he switched over to keyboards for the piano ballad “See Me Now.” But the band’s strongest songs of the afternoon were the shifting time signatures of “Ooh La,” the syncopated “Down” (featuring a guitar duel between Pritchard and Hugh Harris) and the closing “Naive,” with Pritchard repeatedly imploring, “Just don’t let me down.” For the record, the Kooks didn’t let down the crowd, either.
Led by frontman Drake Margolnick, North Carolina’s Flagship opened the fest at 1pm with an eight-song set of churning U2-ish contemporary rock, highlighted by their opening “Are You Calling” and the chugging “Life Underwater.” Sandwiched in between the opener and the headliner, Rochester quintet Joywave dished up a 10-song batch of high-energy, neo-new wave dance-rock with the geeky but totally captivating singer Daniel Armbruster leading the charge through such gems as the Afro-pop-flavored “Carry Me,” the pop-pounder “Somebody New” and the quirky closer “Tongues,” that had most of the crowd literally jumping to the beat.