After Neon Trees played Summerfest for the first time in 2010, lead singer Tyler Glenn went backstage and called his mom in tears. “The feeling was just so high,” he recalled excitedly, in front of the crowd gathered at the US Cellular Stage Saturday night. Clearly happy to be back, the band from Provo, Utah, tore through a loud, high-energy set of punchy pop rock, propelled by a pulsing rhythm section and the charismatic Glenn.
Glenn personally put on an electrifying, emotional performance, pausing often to share stories and lead the audience in full-throated shout-alongs. His ragged but powerful vocals were particularly impressive, seeming to come from a place much deeper than what his wiry 6-foot frame could hold. While Glenn was clearly the star, the rest of the band was just as good, especially drummer Elaine Bradley. On top of her powerful, steady drumming, she carried a good share of vocal duties, shining during the second verse of a cover of “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by The Human League.
The set drew heavily from 2012’s Picture Show, including opener “Moving In The Dark” and icy, Depeche Mode-esque “Trust” as well as the pulsating hit “Everybody Talks.” Aided by an extra guitarist offstage and a pre-recorded backing track for some parts, the songs sounded even fuller and fiercer than on record. But all the extra layers distracted from the band’s raw power. Still, by playing a relatively short set (15 songs, about an hour), Neon Trees managed to keep the energy high and the audience involved. After closing with “In The Next Room” from 2010’s Habits, the band reappeared for an encore wearing various styles of cheese headwear, to wild audience approval.
Three years, one album and a super-hit song after its first Summerfest gig, Neon Trees returned looking and sounding like a premier rock band. Like radio-friendly contemporaries Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees could likely conquer the Amphitheater next time they're in town. As long as they remember to bring the cheese.