Flower crowns balanced precariously on top of heads and streaks of neon paint adorned smiling faces when a sold-out crowd braved the rain and packed LC Pavilion to “Shut Up and Dance” with Ohio-based pop-rock band Walk the Moon.
As the line of poncho-wearing, umbrella-clutching fans slowly began to loop around the parking lot and through the LC’s massive front gates, the outdoor concert venue filled with a rainbow of color. The fans’ squeals of excitement, despite the downpour that clouded the Friday night air, charged the pre-show atmosphere with electrified anticipation.
As the house music faded and the lawn lights dimmed, the roar of the crowd served as an eardrum-ringing welcome to Public, a pop trio from Cincinnati made up of John Vaughn, Ben Lapps and Matthew Alvarado.
Public has toured with Walk the Moon in the past, and it was easy to see why the band is often chosen as the opening act. Apart from also hailing from Walk the Moon’s hometown music scene, Public’s rhythmic drum beats and fanciful lyrics mirrored those of the headlining act.
Bringing danceable songs like “Honeybee” and “Heartbeating” to the LC stage, Public performed with a music festival-esque vibe. The bouncy pop sounds of the band, combined with the slow tapering off of the rain, encouraged audience members to ignore the sopping wet mud puddles and embrace the fleeting freedom of a carefree summer evening. With a final “thank you” and wave, the band exited the stage and the audience in the pit condensed as fans jostled to inch closer to the stage.
A little less than an hour later, the startling sounds of the opening bars to The Lion King’s “The Circle of Life” resounded throughout the amphitheater, signifying Walk the Moon’s entrance. This dramatic spectacle was met with more shouts of excitement from the crowd, which was relieved to find that the rain had stopped falling almost completely.
Encouraging the audience to sing along, lead vocalist and keyboardist Nicholas Petricca strutted onto the stage while brackets of neon lights pulsed to the beat. The band started with “Tightrope,” a crowd-pleaser off of its first full-length, self-titled album that showcased the band’s energy, which it carried throughout the entire show.
Customary introductions were made, with the other members of the band — bassist Kevin Ray, guitarist Eli Maiman and drummer Sean Waugaman — smiling and waving to the audience while Petricca announced, “We are Walk the Moon and we’re from Ohio.” This was met with excited whoops and hollers from the crowd—evoking much more enthusiasm than what is usually apparent when talking about the buckeye state.
The band continued to play several songs from its new album, “Talking is Hard,” which was released in December and has enjoyed success on the Billboard charts. The 80’s influences from songs like “Sidekick” and “Aquaman” were positively recepted by all in attendance, and so were songs with a heavier rock feel like “Up 2 U” and “Lisa Baby.” It soon became clear that both the performers and the audience were feeding off of each others’ excitement.
The crowd went wild when Petricca re-emerged on stage wearing a white t-shirt printed with a rainbow-colored state of Ohio. Congratulating the country on the legalization of same-sex marriage, a 5-4 decision made by the United States Supreme Court on Friday, Petricca effortlessly transitioned into another song from “Talking is Hard,” an upbeat anthem called “Different Colors.”
As the night wound down, Petricca welcomed new and old members of the Walk the Moon fanbase to participate in what has now become a ritual performed at every show. Calling upon the audience for participation, Petricca led the group in a kinesthetic cathartic exercise, telling fans to take all the anger they feel in their lives and push it up out of their bodies, conduct it through their fingertips and expel it into the atmosphere. In keeping with tradition, this dramatic build-up served as a natural segway into another crowd favorite, “I Can Lift a Car.”
As expected, Walk the Moon closed its show with its hit of the summer, “Shut Up and Dance.” Multicolored glowsticks waved in the air, creating a sea of iridescent lights that illuminated the darkened lawn as fans’ voices drowned out those of the band.
Not long after the quartet of musicians had exited the stage, the audience called out for another one of Walk the Moon’s summery tunes, “Anna Sun.” In response, the band bounded back into the spotlight and greeted the crowd once more.
But before “Anna Sun” was played, fans of Walk the Moon’s older material were given a treat when the beginning chords of “Iscariot” rang out as the first song of the band’s encore. With potent lyrics and a slower tempo that showcased Petricca’s impressive vocal range, “Iscariot” highlighted the breadth of the band’s repertoire and musical skill.
After another shoutout to a city it has come to call home — Ray grew up in Columbus and said he used to live only a mile away from the LC Pavilion stage — Walk the Moon played the final song of the night with as much energy as it played the first.
And then, suddenly, it was over. The magic surrounding the collective experience of a Walk the Moon show was stripped away. The pavilion lights snapped back on, the stage backdrop was lowered and, as the last note of “Anna Sun” faded into the steamy Columbus air, the rain began to fall once more.