AJR plays for largest Pittsburgh crowd to date at UPMC Events Center


Photo by Jordyn Hronec

AJR plays at Robert Morris University’s UPMC Events Center on Tuesday, Jan. 21

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-Elect

In 2013, a song titled “I’m Ready,” which sampled the musical stylings of Spongebob Squarepants, was released. The song, perhaps due to its bizarre sampling, was certified platinum in 2015.

The men responsible for this hit were Adam, Jack and Ryan Met, the three New York City brothers who make up the band AJR.

Since “I’m Ready,” AJR has released several EP’s and full-length albums, the most recent of which was the masterpiece titled “Neotheater.” This album and the Neotheater World Tour is what, according to Jack, brought AJR back to Pittsburgh for their fifth visit.

The concert held on Tues., Jan. 21 at the newly-constructed UPMC Events Center on Robert Morris University’s campus. According to the brothers, it was the largest Pittsburgh venue they had seen thus far. They revealed that their first Pittsburgh show took place at the Altar Bar in the Strip District, a venue that has since closed permanently. Just last year for The Click Tour, the band visited Stage AE, a venue that the brothers noted was half the size of the UPMC Events Center.

To double their crowd size in only one year was no small feat and was one that the brothers would have to deliver on, and deliver they did.

The group, Almost Monday, a three-man band from San Diego, warmed up the crowd before AJR took the stage, and they did a pretty good job. They played their new song “Parking Lot View” for the Pittsburgh crowd before its release several days later.

When AJR took the stage, they began with the first song on “Neotheater,” “Next Up Forever.” AJR samples a 1930s’-esque orchestral choir throughout the album, and this song opens with some pretty lofty chords. The song has a “grand opening” aura, making it the perfect opening song for a concert, as well as a first album track.

Throughout the show, AJR played songs from “Neotheater” as well as some popular hits from their previous album, “The Click.” Some of these tracks, such as “Weak” and “Sober Up,” which features Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, had gained incredible popularity as singles.

Aside from the music, the standout features of this show were definitely AJR’s use of a giant screen behind the stage. During the song “The Entertainment’s Here,” Jack, while performing, walked on a treadmill as the screen displayed a neighborhood moving past him. At one point, he even grabbed an umbrella as the screen displayed a rainstorm and subsequent rising floodwaters. At another point in the show, trumpeter J.J. Fitzpatrick, who joined the brothers for The Click Tour as well, played and walked along to a mashup of AJR hits as the song titles floated by on clouds displayed on the screen.

During the song “Wow I’m Not Crazy,” the band returned to their roots, performing in Washington Square Park in Manhattan. On-screen behind them, Washington Square Park was displayed, and the brothers all sat around on stage. As they played, actors pretending to be park-goers would walk by, jam out and toss a couple bucks into Jack’s guitar case, causing him to yell out, “Thank you!” several times during the song.

At another point in the show, Ryan described to the audience how the song “Don’t Throw Out My Legos” was created. It started with the sound created by Jack accidentally dropping his keys. This song breakdown was reminiscent of The Click Tour’s breakdown of “Burn the House Down.”

Ryan and Jack each took the stage alone to play “Turning Out pt. ii” and “Dear Winter,” respectively.

The encore of the show consisted of the brothers and band members reappearing on stage to bang on some drums, while wearing black onesies with white LED stick men that appeared when the lights went out. This took place during the song “100 Bad Days,” the first single released from the album. As they played, the screen behind them displayed hundreds more stick men, each also hitting drums, that was an incredible visual, and a great way to end the show.

Overall, the next time AJR inevitably makes a stop by the ‘burgh, they are a must-see group. There is no doubt that someday soon, AJR’s audience will grow even bigger, and they’ll be playing sold-out shows at PPG Paints. For the time being, Pittsburghers can hop over to Cincinnati or Cleveland to catch AJR for their Neotheater Part II tour.

As for AJR, we can’t wait to see what you do next.