While tending to his hosting duties, Bean manned the microphone to thank the sold out crowd that made their way to The Forum Saturday night. It was quick mention, but while acknowledging the fans, Bean would also include that tonight marked the 28th time that L.A. had convened for the KROQ holiday party. More than a rock concert, Saturday night at The Forum seemed to drive home the longevity of what has become a Christmas tradition. From the opening rumble of Royal Blood to the climatic choruses of Muse, night one of the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas proved why it has become one of the most anticipated events of the season.
Helming the happy hour at The Forum, KROQ’s own DJ Jeremiah Red rewarded the fans that made their way into the arena early. Assembling a seamless 60-minute set, Red ran through the KROQ essentials and quickly added to the excitement on the floor. The eclectic mix of tunes from the KROQ archive not only showcased Red’s knack for song selection, but also flexed his ability to blur the transition and create a full hour of energy.
Quickly setting the bar, the sun hadn’t even set in Inglewood yet and already Royal Blood was rattling The Forum. The duo only needed 30 minutes to lay the fans to waste, belting out dynamic, driving rock tunes like, “I Only Lie When I Love You” and “ Lights Out.” The tandem of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher took pummeled the fans with jam after jam and seemed to defy logic in creating something so stylishly heavy, with all of two guys onstage. For those that might have still been in disbelief, the finale of “Figure It Out” left zero doubt.
In a night stacked with charismatic frontmen, Judah Akers of Judah and the Lion made one hell of an impression. Splitting his performance time between the stage, the second level of the arena, and in the pit, Akers was both endearing and entertaining. Songs like “Suit and Jacket” and “Take It All Back” afforded plenty of audience participation as the fans were compelled to move along to the beat with the band. Rounding out their time with a two-minute dance party, the Lion collectively transformed a rock show into a gigantic house party.
Hometown heroes Cold War Kids are the kind of band that manages to keep where they are from close to heart. Songs like “Miracle Mile” and their latest from L.A. Divine in “Love Is Mystical,” resonate as almost cinematic in how they manage to capture L.A. in a 3-minute stanza. The band would score a win with their rendition of “First” and even pulled out a bit of the razzle-dazzle by inviting Bishop Briggs to perform a duet of Rihanna’s “Love On The Brain” and their current single “So Tied Up.” The move seemed to work as the couples in crowd began pairing up moving closer.
The admitted wild card of the evening, Killer Mike and El-P added some bombastic bass to the rock show Saturday night. Run the Jewels emerged onstage to Queen’s We Are The Champions” and quickly backed up that claim with jams like “Call Tickettron” and “Pew Pew Pew.” For those that questioned how a hip-hop duo would work during an evening loaded with guitars and distortion, RTJ would put forth indisputable arguments with selections like “Oh My Darling” and “Close Your Eyes (Count to F*ck).” Anchored by crafty wordplay, thunderous bass, and relentless energy, Run The Jewels blurs the divide of genre with the kind of delivery resonates with both the fans and the unfamiliar.
During her introduction, Nicole Alvarez promised things were about to get legendary and within the first 20-seconds of Prophets of Rage’s set, it was evident she wasn’t lying. With fists raised sky high, Chuck D, B Real, and instrumental core of Rage Against the Machine let the air raid siren blare before commanding the thousands of fans now packed into The Forum. Including essentials like “Bring The Noise” from Public Enemy and “Insane In the Brain” from Cypress Hill, the band would also perform their own collaborative work with “Living On the 110” and their middle finger salute with “Hail To The Chief.” A true ambassador, Chuck D would tip his hat to Zack De La Rocha in complimenting Rocha’s poignant lyrical message. Collective, the band would honor that legacy with rousing renditions of Rage classics like “Bulls On Parade,” Testify,” and a finale in “Killing In the Name” that prompted an entire arena to drop a chorus of f-bombs.
Towards the end of their time onstage, Rise Against’s frontman Tim McIIrath thanked the fans for their support and took the time to articulate a message that drew a roar from the crowd. “It’s not radical to say f*ck racism. It’s not radical to say f*uck homophobia.” Tackling pertinent issues like xenophobia and sexism, Tim reminded fans that even though things seem bleak, positivity would always prevail. That message seemed to fuel kind of emotion that electrified the stage during songs like “Satellite,” “Prayer of the Refugee,” and “Help Is On The Way.” Punctuating their time with “Savior” Rise Against was nothing short of riveting.
Emerging in front of a wash of blue light, Josh Homme grabbed the microphone and asked The Forum, “You know who we are? You know what we came here to do?” The anticipation was thick in the seconds before Queens of the Stone Agebegan their set. Encouraging the audience to dance with a few choice expletives, songs like “Smooth Sailing” and “The Evil Has Landed” gave the Almost Acoustic Christmas plenty of reason to. Homme would continue his stage banter by encouraging the fans to embrace a healthy disregard for rules and boundaries. He sipped from a red solo cup and even lit a smoke in between tearing into songs like “Go With the Flow,” “Little Sister,” and “No One Knows.” Stylishly chaotic and unapologetically loud, QOTSA needed less than an hour to prove definitively that rock can still feel dangerous.
Channeling the spirit of Jim Morrison, Jared Leto took to the Almost Acoustic Christmas stage and sent the capacity crowd into hysterics. From the opening of “Up In The Air” to an acoustic rendition of the band’s anthem “The Kill,” 30STMsimply could not miss. Enlisting the help of the fans, a few MARS faithful even got to join the band onstage as they closed out their time with “Closer to the Edge.” The band’s brief time onstage brilliantly ran the gamut of emotions. Among the superlatives often abused in describing entertainment, epic is at the top of this list. However, Jared Leto and 30STM ensured that night one of the Almost Acoustic Christmas was indeed, epic.
Closing out the evening, Muse had the task of going on after a full night of stellar performances and still managed to shine. Reiterating why they are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, the trio pieced together a 90-minute set of strictly hits in a succession. Among the highlights during the band’s time included a tip of the hat to AC/DC during the end of “Hysteria.” During “Starlight,” frontman Matt Bellamy took to the catwalk and played conductor as the entire arena providing back up vocals. Saving “Uprising” and “Knights of Cydonia,” for the finale, the band’s victory lap forced fans to soak in the spectacle of not only what was happing onstage, but also just how captivated the thousands of fans were. Of the many highlights from night one, the final minutes felt particular historic.