AJR – Spark Arena August 27, 2022 (Concert Review)

AJR are pop music obsessives who deliver a dramatic and tightly choreographed explosive show, aided by some stunning visual effects. A VMax theatrical experience.

Three brothers from New York City. Multi-instrumentalists, songwriters and producers who create their distinctive mercurial pop sound in their living room.

Adam Metzger predominant on bass, Jack Metzger lead vocals, guitars and Ryan Metzger guitars, ukulele, keyboards and vocals. The sterling back room which completes the live touring sound are Chris Berry drums and Arnetta Johnson trumpet and keyboards.

They start with Bummerland, one of the highlights from the OK Orchestra album of 2021. Big echoing drums, irresistible hooks, and an acute sense of humour. This month I got seven haircuts/ And now my hair is all gone. They can identify with their audience as well as skewer them. Nicely.

3 O’Clock Things receives a surreal make-over from the album track, with striking visuals that blend in with the singer on stage. And maybe sex is overrated/ But we’re too shy to ever say it. Pop Art mashing The Smiths with Woody Allen. And then the great big boot from Monty Python tries to squash the animations and the real singer.

Alexander 23

Alexander 23This is Alexander Gartz from Chicago and he is playing solo with acoustic guitar to open the show. Ubiquitous in the sense he is a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer-songwriter with mega million streams to his name, as well as Grammy nominations for production.

He looks like a Folkie. He does sound like one with the emphasis on folk pop.

Cry Over Boys begins the set with a pleasant tenor voice. Dials up the intensity in the latter half.

Somebody’s Nobody starts with the naïve voice style of a Jonathan Richman. But it has theatrical changes of tempo and the subject in question sounds like a 28-year-old suicide. Packs an understated emotional hit. 

Combines quiet skeletal tones with lush pop on Crash. I miss you but I don’t miss us/ ‘Cause apart we’re great but together we suck.

High School is street-busking folk with a nice high tenor going to falsetto. So is Dirty AFI’s, which he introduces as the first song he released.

He’s a good contrast to the AJR with his low-key set and he manages to capture the attention of the large arena crowd.


AJRThere are several stand-outs on the album. Bang is one with its galumphing rhythms and detonations synchronised to the light show. Recall the post-Beatles influenced bands, like an ELO as an example but with the emphasis on the beat.

These brothers are musical magpies in how they pull these songs together. Mid-set, they give us a demonstration of how they do it, complete with the incorporation of a next-door neighbours crying baby. Curiously, or miraculously it could be a baroque pop version of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Karma. The drums boom and the trumpet lifts it into orbit. A big sound with simple elements and the guys would be familiar with the Gold Star Phil Spector sound.

Which would also suggest doo-wop. The closest they come to that is a mash-up of Dear Winter/ The Trick with some nice falsetto vocals.

Ordinaryish People is an extraordinary song. Sgt Pepper English music hall trumpet. The Smiths in sentiment and song title. Your pretty friends they call you ugly/ Your ugly friends they call you vain. Constant changes to rhythm and tempo. At the vamp they finish with Japanese Taiko drums.

The lead singer is hyper-energetic all night. They all get to move and role-play, including the big drummer at times. The brothers also take time to interact with the front of house with close to comedy routines.

For World’s Smallest Violin, they come together as a small combo front of stage. Acoustic guitar, ukulele, single drum and horn. They’re a skiffle band! I think I burn my therapist!  The actual line is I think I bored my therapist, but I like my misheard lyric better.

Humpty Dumpty gets a big boost on stage and sounds like it should be a smash hit.

Close the show with 100 Bad Days. Remember when we all got drunk? AJR finish with no let-up in the intensity of their explosive multi-layered pop music.  

Rev Orange Peel

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:


Alexander 23: