REVIEW: X Ambassadors at Summerfest
The progression of bands at Summerfest is interesting to track from year to year. Last year, rising indie stars X Ambassadors found themselves playing an early 6:45 slot at the US Cellular Connections Stage as part of the Emerging Artists Series. The band played to the first section of bleachers predominantly, in support of recent single “Renegades”, which was starting to break into the regular rotation on FM 1021.There was promise from the band, however many in attendance couldn’t name more than the breakout single if they tried.
Fast forward a year, and the scene surrounding X Ambassadors had changed so much that you’d think it was re-written altogether. The group headlined the Miller Lite Oasis on Wednesday night, bringing thousands of younger fans in tow, which filled the area. It was hard not to think of the progression of Imagine Dragons, which created a similar buzz seemingly overnight as well before overcrowding the Oasis themselves. With the crowd eating out of their hands before even stepping on stage, X Ambassadors looked to make this a night to remember all around.
Naturally, the Oasis was hopping at every chance to see Sam Harris and company do their thing on stage early on. The night kicked off with the bass-heavy “Loveless”, which was aided by the sound system at the stage, still undoubtedly reeling from night after night of EDM. The audio leveled out a few songs in, however, and it looked like energy was going to stay up for quite some time. Naturally, that’s when things began to dip. Harris, who is multi-talented on both the bass and saxophone, took things down a notch with an acoustic guitar for crooning ballad hit”Unsteady”, dedicated to the city of New Orleans, followed by laid back jam “Litost”. Surprisingly, the slower material resonated most with the extensive crowd of teens that seem to flock to the Miller Lite Oasis nightly. The band saved the energy tailspin that they had sent themselves into, however, with the stomp-filled “Jungle”. Things remained on par with that pace, if not higher, for the rest of the show.
Looking at X Ambassadors on stage, it was clear that this was very much not the same band that had graced the US Cellular Connections stage a year prior. Signs of extensive touring behind the re-release of their acclaimed “VHS” album were present in their live show, as the group looked very comfortable with one another, as well as the large crowd in attendance. Harris was definitely more mobile than their somewhat reserved 2015 slot, knowing exactly what to do and where to go in order to get the crowd of teens going bonkers with every turn. X Ambassadors are still very much emerging artists, but looked and felt like seasoned veterans on stage Wednesday night.
With one overly popular album under their belt, material can become limited, and the band only threw in a few self-proclaimed “X Ambassadors Classics”, AKA songs from previous releases that could date back no more than three years. Their set, in turn, was shorter than most, with a slightly late arrival and an abrupt end after “Renegades” that made you believe the band was done for the night without an encore. A one-song encore which consisted of VHS track “Unconsolable” closed out the night, and then just like that, it was, well, done.
While X Ambassadors might need to fill out more of their time slot in the future if they want to maintain headlining positions, the band and the crowd made the most out of every song that they did perform, and Harris and Co. put on one heck of a show in the process. The massive crowd was a major change from those that had watched them in 2015, and to their credit, it was almost as if X Ambassadors were a completely different band, as well.