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Live Review: Atlas Genius, The Kooks Bring Peppy Rock to NYC's Central Park

by Carolyn Menyes   Jun 25, 2015 16:24 PM EDT

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It was an idyllic night on Wednesday (June 24) in New York City's Central Park. Not only was it a beautiful summer night, but the sound of glorious indie pop rang from tree to tree as Atlas Genius and The Kooks took over the Park Foundation's Summerstage to bring the grooves and the guitar.

To kick off the night, Australian rockers Atlas Genius took to the stage to the crowd that seemed equal parts there for them, The Kooks and just to be seen at a show in New York. Just two songs in, Atlas Genius took to debuting new material -- a risky move. But just two months away from the release of its sophomore album Inanimate Objects, the band seemed to decide it was time to familiarize fans with what was to come.

The first new song debuted, "Refugees" seems to have life in it as a potential major single. Following the basic blueprint of Atlas Genius' debut When It Was Now, the jangling guitars and inherent poppy hooks where all there. But, there was an inherent sexiness oozing from the stage, though "Refugees" knew just how to cool it down for the post-chorus.

 @atlasgenius debuting #newmusic at #centralpark summerstage! #nyc

A video posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jun 24, 2015 at 7:25pm PDT

In a rare move for new songs, "Refugees" played almost as well as "If So," Atlas Genius' secondary big hit, which they launched into immediately after.

Between other cuts from When It Was Now, including "Electric," "Back Seat" and the ending major hit "Trojans," the band continued to roll out new music. While the Inanimate Object material was glitzy, slightly (but not too) grown up and clean, the band sometimes struggled to keep people interested, which was a true shame.

Throughout the night, the crowd was far and away the worst part of the show. While Atlas Genius (and later, The Kooks) did its best to keep the audience engaged with crystal clear sound, hooks for days and excessive energy, the sold-out crowd just could not be bothered to pay attention. Surrounding me, there were endless, increasingly slurred conversations that rivaled the volume of what was happening on stage, several couples shamelessly making out and people just standing around, filled with ennui despite all the jangling, peppy rock emerging from the musicians just feet away from them.

Such is the curse of the New York City concert. Anyone who is anyone will pass through these streets to debut or promote new material. But that makes getting people engaged and caring a whole other beast.

That same audience disinterest also seeped into The Kooks' set, which may have not set the best groundwork by kicking off roughly 15 minutes late. The crowd was a fickle beast, eschewing the disco-infused bangers off the band's 2014 record Listen for old fan favorites.

After opening up with the epic, engaging tracks "Around Town" and "Bad Habit," The Kooks were able to kick off its set with momentum, but the true fan favorites and show highlights came from the band's first two albums. "Always Where I Need to Be," "Ooh La," "Sofa Song" and "She Moves in Her Own Way" were clear set highlights, with singalongs and dance-offs breaking out in all areas of the audience.

@thekooksmusic making us feel 15 again with #oohla. #centralpark #nyc A video posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jun 24, 2015 at 7:27pm PDT

But, once Listen material came into play, people seemed to lose interest. Despite the inherent kick in "Westside" and "Sweet Emotion," the tracks couldn't keep up with what the audience apparently wanted. Once again, it was a shame people couldn't be bothered to care because frontman Luke Pritchard's vocals cut through the talkative crowd like butter with pitch perfection, and his energy would not have been misplaced at a '70s disco.

But, people just wanted to sing along to their favorites, which would not arrive until the encore. Because of the late start, The Kooks only had time for one final song, closing out with its (arguably) biggest hit "Naïve." Even the insanely talkative couple behind me were brought to attention, dancing and singing along with the catchy, hook-filled song, which sounded better than ever in the park environment.

The delayed start (for whatever cause) left a glaring omission in The Kooks' set, its 2012 U.S. breakout hit "Junk of the Heart (Happy)." The lack of "Junk" gave this reviewer a wave of sadness, but you can't always get what you want, and there's no denying the night was filled with bangers.

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