To the Moon & Back: Nashville's Moon Taxi kicks off Sonic Lunch

MUSIC REVIEW

Moon Taxi at Sonic Lunch

Liberty Plaza was put into lunar orbit by Moon Unit in the kickoff concert of the Sonic Lunch series. Photo via Sonic Lunch.

The weather, the vibe, and the music all felt like summer on Thursday for the first concert in this year’s Sonic Lunch series, as rising pop-rock band Moon Taxi brought its infectious sound to Liberty Plaza.

Although past Sonic Lunch shows have occasionally had an opening band, this year for the first time every show will feature two acts. Thursday’s opener, Nadim Azzam, is a talented Ann Arbor singer-musician-songwriter who combines indie folk and hip-hop -- and some other genres -- into a seamless mix. “Out of Air” highlighted the enjoyable five-song set, in which saxophonist Jacob LaChance backed Azzam.

Moon Taxi leader Trevor Terndrup greeted a crowd that easily numbered several hundred, and under a cloudless sky, the band launched into “Let the Record Play,” the title track from its major-label debut album, released earlier this year by RCA. The reggae flavorings of the song came to the forefront a bit more in concert than on the studio version.

In fact, on several songs in Thursday’s show, Moon Taxi sounded a little more like the jam band it started out as than it does on the new record. It still featured plenty of beautiful pop hooks, smooth vocals, and crisp playing, anchored by Tommy Putnam on bass and Tyler Ritter on drums.
By the start of the second song, 2012’s “Mercury,” the dance floor in front of the stage started to get some good use. “Who’s to Say,” from 2015, showcased solos from keyboardist Wes Bailey as well as lead guitarist Spencer Thomson; the latter especially stood out on “Good as Gold,” a memorable song from the new album. Overall, the new songs tended to shine; the catchy “Not Too Late” was another highlight.

Looking at Moon Taxis recent setlists, it’s obvious that they like to mix things up with some unexpected cover songs. And the Sonic Lunch crowd got a nice treat as the band did a terrific, out-of-left-field mash-up of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

After reaching back to 2013 for “Morocco,” Moon Taxi wrapped up with the band’s most familiar song -- it’s been featured in a Jeep commercial -- the catchy “Two High.” “So put 'em up -- two high / We can walk together / With our hands up in the sky / So put 'em up, tonight / We can come together / We won't give up on the fight.”

It’s a great and inspiring song, and the band’s summery sound was the perfect way to launch the new Sonic Lunch season.

Setlist:
Let the Record Play
Make Your Mind Up
Mercury
Who’s to Say
Not Too Late
Nothing Can Keep Us Apart
Run Right Back
Lose Yourself / All These Things That I’ve Done
Good as Gold
All Day All Night
Morocco
Two High


Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.


Nadim Azzam plays Top of the Park on June 22. The Bank of Ann Arbor’s free Sonic Lunch concert series continues at 11:30 a.m. every Thursday (except July 19) through Aug. 30 at Liberty Plaza, at the corner of Liberty and Division streets in downtown Ann Arbor. To keep up with all things Sonic Lunch and to see the full schedule, visit its website, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

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