KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas: Burbank Universal Amphitheatre

It's shocking when Incubus appear on stage backed by a host of cellos and violins, as though they streaked a funeral...

The word acoustic, as applied to KROQ’s annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concert is largely ornamental and can be replaced with just about any word you like better, such as orangutan or peristalsis. After the first few sets have gone by, it becomes clear that although those words are not relevant to the evening’s concert, neither is acoustic, and it’s shocking when Incubus appear on stage backed by a host of cellos and violins, as though they streaked a funeral.

More shocking, if only for it’s complete short-sightedness, is 3 Doors Down’s abrupt departure from the stage. Complaining that they weren’t allowed a soundcheck, the newbies stomp off after only two tunes, bitterly berating the sound and likely walking right off of KROQ’s playlist.

Moby runs onto the stage and sprints madly about to the swarming beats of ‘Machete’, dashing from the microphone, to the keyboards, to a set of bongo drums, rubbing his shaved head distractedly as though uncertain where to begin. Once settled, his much-anticipated pairing with Gwen Stefani for ‘South Side’ clicks and the two display an easy chemistry that makes a well-known happening seem spontaneous.

Charles Darwin might have missed this particular natural law when he was drumming up details on that whole evolution deal but for this night it is undeniable that everyone likes Weezer. Looking around at a crowd full of pierced, tattooed kids with leaden eyes and seen-it-all-before-at-14-faces, it doesn’t seem possible that the three minutes of unadulterated pop joy of ‘Buddy Holly’ could ever write to reach them. But in an afterschool special moment the scrappy, scrawny kids really do beat the bullies and everything from ‘My Name Is Jonas’ to ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’ meets with frantic applause.

The Deftones don’t play acoustic either but singer Chino Moreno’s spirited dive into the crowd means that little attention is being paid to what happens onstage anyway. His bandmates dutifully play on ignored, with thousands of roving eyes following Moreno’s surfing efforts, until the security guards return him from whence he came, reigning him in by his belt loops.

KROQ darlings No Doubt pick up the stage time that 3 Doors Down walked away from, taking the extra time for an (gasp!) acoustic version of ‘Just A Girl’, as well as the hits from their new open marriage proposal/album, including the show tune ‘Bathwater’ and ‘Simple Kind of Life’.

Papa Roach headline and their arrival on stage is definitely not acoustic and most certainly nothing you would ever request for Christmas. Vague suburban angst, grating guitar, lots of screaming and wearing black. Please Santa, not this year.

Text and image: Colin Devenish