OneRepublic at Myth, 7/22/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

with Mayer Hawthorne & The County
Myth, St. Paul
Monday, July 22, 2013

When your band's frontman spends his working hours as one of the country's most successful writers of Top 40 pop, it becomes impossible to separate the group's own musical identity from their body of work. Such is the fate of the poor dudes who back Grammy-winning writer and superproducer Ryan Tedder as OneRepublic. Nine to five, Tedder cranks out the kind of expansive, dramatic pop and R&B material that has characterized so much of the last half-decade, with artists such as Beyonce ("Halo"), Jordin Sparks ("Battlefield") and Kelly Clarkson ("Already Gone") lining his resume. But Tedder has long coveted the artistic legitimacy that comes with a touring rock band, so OneRepublic seems to exist as the manifestation of that dream, a blank canvas upon which the songwriter can display his own talents as a singer and performer.

But while Tedder displays admirable professionalism in his tightly crafted compositions for other artists, the Oklahoma native seems to lack any self-awareness about his own band's material.

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Slideshow: OneRepublic at Myth

As often happens with stadium-sized groups, a last-minute flight delay caused scheduling to go awry, forcing opener Mayer Hawthorne to perform early and causing an hour-plus turnover between bands. Apparently it gave the members of OneRepublic a chance to gaze down upon our fair state from the clouds, as Tedder compared the landscape favorably to that of Ireland, and declared himself a "lake person."

Photos by Tony Nelson

This was all, of course, after the thoroughly dramatic intro to "Light it Up," which OneRepublic performed mostly as shadows, projected onto a hanging curtain by their extensive lighting setup. During the song's climax, the curtain tumbled to the ground while the lights strobed, setting off an earsplitting screech through the crowd as the room's all-ages female quotient totally lost their shit.

There's no doubting that Tedder knows how to craft a catchy hook. Tunes from their new album Native are as immediately gratifying as the band's earlier work. The trouble seems to come in when the singer-songwriter allows his inevitable pretensions to get the best of him, such as on "All the Right Moves." Beginning with a piped-in children's choir, visualized on the massive, vaguely pyramid-like screen, the song swells to almost goofy levels of pomp by the end of the bombastic bridge section. Anchoring the whole thing to a equally corny swung "folk" beat made the comparisons to hacky musical theater even more pronounced.

OneRepublic's most satisfying songs tend to cash in on their ability to blend the high-drama of Coldplay with more straightforward, heart-on-the-sleeve adult contemporary pop. "What You Wanted" and "Secrets" could have been hits for groups like Kings of Leon, and set closer "I Lived" successfully borrows a page from Mumford and Sons' playbook. The silent boys who back Tedder (who speaks on their behalf between songs) are capable musicians, successfully recreating most of the studio trickery that the band leans on for the live setting.

Ryan himself is a gifted singer as well, with a broad range and a warm, confident voice that he definitely isn't afraid to show off. Armed with a show-stopping falsetto wail, the singer knows how to milk a song for all the possible notes, taking an extended vocal solo at the end of "Apologize" and vamping it into the Rihanna hit "We Found Love," before returning to his own material. Moments like this might have been highlights, had Tedder not used the same trick on the outro of nearly every song.

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