The mood outside of The Fillmore in Charlotte was somber Monday night after the mass shooting at Route 91 Harvest in Las Vegas on Sunday night and the announcement of Tom Petty's death on Monday. Patrons lined the sidewalks ready for extensive security screenings before entering the Foster The People show. Lines inched forward through the doors, and once inside, a quiet hum of voices and slow-moving bodies found their places on the floor.
Opener Cherry Glazerr took the stage at 8 pm and fired to life with the words Sacred Hearts Club, the title of the most recent Foster The People album, written in neon across the curtain behind them. I wasn't familiar with them prior to the show, but the crowd proved far more familiar than I, cheering for popular songs like "Told You I'd Be With The Guys" and "Whites Not My Color This Evening." Powerful guitar riffs backed the howling vocals of lead singer Clementine Creevy whose lyrics teetered between mournful and reflective to furious and provocative. It wasn't a long set, but the catchy tunes provided an enjoyable opening to the evening.
Every light in the room cut off, and the crowded room went silent. Notes from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' "I Won't Back Down" filled the speakers, but the crowd remained quiet. Lights slowly illuminated the stage, and fans applauded while singing, "Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out, hey, I will stand my ground and I won't back down."
Foster The People quickly moved into place and opened the show with the lead track from their 2017 album Sacred Hearts Club, "Pay The Man." They moved through the next two songs without pause before addressing the fans. Lead vocalist Mark Foster squinted as he looked out over the crowd, noting it had been a long time since they had played in Charlotte, and they were happy to be back with us.
Throwing it back to their 2011 album Torches, with songs "Life On The Nickel" and "Waste," the vibe of the room was nostalgic. Throughout the seventeen song set, the band jumped between the three albums they've released over their eight-year career, making sure to cover hits like "Don't Stop" and "Call It What You Want" from album Torches, and "Pseudologia Fantastica" and "Are You What You Want To Be" from Supermodel.
Foster the People's popularity skyrocketed in 2011 when "Pumped Up Kicks" took over the airwaves. The dark lyrics were written from the point of view of an isolated teenager plotting a school shooting. After immense backlash, Mark Foster defend himself and the song saying, "I wrote 'Pumped Up Kicks' when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn't start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation."
The song is still on the band's regular setlist but was noticeably absent in tonight's show. After ending on the song "Miss You," the band exited the stage at 10:30 pm. The lights stayed dark, and the crowd waited in place until the group finally reemerged for an encore.
Mark Foster delivered a monologue to the crowd about how much the world had changed over the three years they were writing a new record. He concluded his thoughts by saying he felt lucky to be part of a touring band that afforded him the opportunity to meet a variety of people, and he feels like the world is inherently good, that evil is out there, but people are good. He refrained from political statements because, as he put it, "The problem isn't politics. It's not a Republican thing. It's not a Democrat thing. It's a human thing."
After an eruption of applause, he addressed the obvious and intentional exclusion of "Pumped Up Kicks," saying the band didn't feel right playing the hit after what had transpired in Las Vegas, and instead they had something else to end with. The band then ended the set with an inspiring cover of "Love" by John Lennon.
Photos by Ashley Acker for Bullet Music.