I tried to go see X Ambassadors when they played a free show downtown during Super Bowl Week. Unfortunately, it was snowing, I was drunk, there were too many people and, well, it just didn’t happen. I was definitely a bit bummed about missing it but I couldn’t tell you why. I’m not a huge fan of X Ambassadors’ music but, as I always say, you can’t judge a band until you see them live. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed I didn’t catch them on that snowy winter night. Regardless, they returned to town last night and whether I wanted to see them or not, I felt obligated to go check out their live show and see if that’s why the group is getting so much hype.
Even though I just saw The Aces in February, I was excited that they were opening the show last night. Not only was I happy to see them performing in front of a pretty substantial crowd, but I was also happy that I got a chance to catch them again. The female four piece group blasted through their quick thirty minute set with their signature poppy grunge sound and attitude. Although it was short and sweet, it was clear that they had swept the audience off their feet and, within the first song, had majority of the crowd moving along to their infectious beats. The cute factor of this band is off the charts. The young members are clearly in love with the music and the fact that they get to perform night after night and that feeling definitely reaches the crowd. Whether you were at last night’s show to see them, Jacob Banks, or X Ambassadors, The Aces’ set had you stuck where you were. It was impossible to ignore them but it wasn’t in your face which is a super hard thing to find balance in but The Aces have perfected the art.
Following the almost garage-punk sounds of The Aces was the soulfulness of Jacob Banks. Where do I even start with this guy? Within the first words that came out of his mouth, I slipped my phone into my bag and never took my eyes off the stage. Jacob has a voice… no, that’s an understatement but there’s no better word to use. His voice is full of soul, emotion, and passion. It’s the kind of voice that gives you chills with your first listen. Born in Nigeria but living in England, Jacob has a very unique style. Sure, there’s the soul behind his voice but there’s a sense of reggae and dancehall in his music. As if that’s not enough, he and his band seem to add straight up rock and hip-hop in there with a little dash of EDM. Honestly, the music was all over the place but that added a sense of magic to his set. For a show that I had close to no expectations for, Jacob Banks completely blew me out of the water and to have X Ambassadors (a top-40 band) pick such an interesting opener truly had me feeling a bit more optimistic about what was to come.
After a lengthy stage turn over, the lights went down and the crowd roared as the members of X Ambassadors took the stage. Wasting no time at all, they jumped into a nearly hour and a half long set that had me completely in love and regretting any bad word I had ever said about the band. X Ambassadors’ show had a feeling of being much bigger than the modestly sized Music Hall MPLS. Maybe it was the enormous amount of gear that crowded the stage, the three backup singers, or the super impressive light show. Regardless, it just felt bigger than most shows I see giving the night a sense of energy even though I was fading fast. I’ve found that some bands that have these huge and explosive live shows seem to let the music fall down a few pegs but that was not at all that case last night.
As I mentioned, I to me there are 2 X Ambassadors – the radio version that’s ok but doesn’t really engage me, and the live band that turns me into a cheering fan . The energy created from their live show had me reconsidering that opinion. I watched in awe as singer Sam Harris stalked the stage with a sense of fury and power while still feeling very family-friendly and top 40. Just watching him as he truly sang his heart out added a side to this band that I didn’t know existed and a side that had me falling head over heels in love with them. Sam’s brother Casey Harris (who plays keys in the group) was just as energetic and electric to watch. Always moving along to the beat and never missing a note, watching Casey perform was truly a highlight of the set for me. I could pick something out about each member that I absolutely loved to watch but that would take too much time. Honestly, there was always something dynamic to see on the stage throughout X Ambassadors’ set which had time flying by and me pleading with the concert gods for just another song or two when it was all said and done.
After doing some research about this group this morning and after some of the things I saw last night, I learned a lot about X Ambassadors that I had no clue about. I had no clue that Casey (the keyboardist) was blind and has been since birth. Clearly that didn’t inhibit him at all and, had I not seen his brother help him on stage for last night’s set, I honestly would have had no clue. The amount of philanthropy that this group does is off the charts. When walking into the venue last night, I was greeted by a giant table covered in pamphlets with volunteers swarming. Unfortunately, I was late and had to get situated so I couldn’t stand a chat but I loved that there were many audience members that had taken the time to stop and talk. Beyond that, it seemed like people were engaged in those conversations which definitely warmed my heart and added yet another side to this band that I fell head over heels for.
I always say that you can’t judge a band until you see them live. Last night was a perfect example of this. Even though I probably won’t start jamming their albums at home in my free time, I will definitely be anxiously waiting another chance to catch X Ambassadors live.