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Concert review: Neon Trees light up Newport with energy, fan connections

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After seeing the Neon Trees perform in the Jerome Schottenstein Center in 2013, my expectations were high as the Utah natives took the stage Thursday night at the Newport Music Hall.

It’s hard to believe that the band’s first hit, “Animal,” was released four years ago and the band has already had a 10-year career.

The Neon Trees have been surging with success, still riding the high from singles like “Everybody Talks,” “1983” and “Your Surrender”.

But the current An Intimate Night with Neon Trees tour exemplifies a change from the band’s usual sold out performances in Times Square and on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats to a more one-on-one performance with fans.

Instead of the usual large stage and over-the-top atmosphere, the Newport Music Hall is a small, cozy setting that allows artists to captivate the audience. Between taking endless selfies with fans during the performance and bantering back and forth with the audience, Neon Trees proved that it is really focused and dedicated to its fan base. Instead of just performing its top hits, Neon Trees chose to use the tour as a way to promote its latest album, “Pop Psychology.”

Led by singer/keyboardist Tyler Glenn, the band performed with an upsurge of emancipating energy, making this one of the most friendly and freeing music settings I’ve seen from a Billboard Top 100 squad. The disco-rock storm was unleashed on the audience as soon as the band took the stage.

After Glenn flung open the closet door last year in a personal and emotional interview with Rolling Stone, fans knew that the Neon Trees next album, “Pop Psychology,”  would be more sentimental to the band. The record is really just a natural reflection of their personal lives.

Influenced by Glenn’s recent time in therapy and perspective as a gay man, the album takes a different meaning than the band’s usual tempo.

“Living In Another World” describes the isolation the singer feels as he realizes he just doesn’t belong or fit in the society he lives in, with lyrics such as, “I guess I’ve always been this way/ It’s been hard for me to say/ Close my eyes, it’ll go away.” Lines from “First Things First” advise listeners to find a place where they feel content and respected while — living up to the album’s underlying message — always be yourself.

But the songs aren’t just an emotional account on the band’s life. Neon Trees takes its music one step further by critiquing today’s youth. This is particularly noted in hits like “Sleeping with a Friend” and “Text Me in the Morning,” which deal with the influence of technology in romance.

These tracks precisely encompass the detached, promiscuity of youth in today’s society, emphasized by lyrics such as, “You tell me you’re tipsy/ I tell you you’re pretty/ We could spend the night if you’re still sure/ But text me in the morning.”

Furthermore, these songs have an upbeat, dance-worthy feel that make you want to groove right along, which comically contrasts with some of the dark, desolate lyrics such as ones in the song, “Teenager in Love.”

In a way, this paradox further clasps the lost, confused, but fun people that reside in today’s youth.

But the best part of the show was the performance of “Songs I Can’t Listen To,” which investigates a disastrous relationship. But instead of dwelling on the cliche emotions that come with heartbreak, the song tells the story of the music shared between the couple, with Glenn compiling a playlist of ruined tracks that he can’t stand to hear anymore.

It’s a familiar story, but takes a spin, emphasizing our constant music appetites, our bespoke tastes and music filling our every emotion.

And as Neon Trees left the stage thoroughly exhausted from the nights performance, I left the Newport with a new perspective on the band, fully understanding and relating to their music.

But the one lesson that stuck out the most from Neon Trees was their concrete message: Always be yourself, no matter what.

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