Plain White T's At The House Of Blues
October 20th, 2018
Powerhouse pop quintet Plain White T's played to an intimate crowd at Cleveland's House of Blues Wednesday night. The Lombard, Illinois-founded outfit started playing together in 1997 and, after undergoing some lineup changes, the current incarnation hit it big in the mid aughts with "Hey There, Delilah," which made it all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2006.
Frontman Tom Higgenson was responsible for helming that tune, while lead guitarist Tom Lopez wrote "Rhythm of Love," another chart-topping single released in 2010. Known for bubbly earworms that stay with you for hours after hearing them, the quintet was in fine form for the mostly-female crowd.
Offering up an eighteen-song set list, Higgenson and company played several cuts from their newest drop, 2018's Parallel Universe. Touring in support of the August album release, the set started with "Bonnie, I Want You," a cut from the new album, and was followed up by six more tracks from Parallel Universe. "Bonnie" featured a sound that's become synonymous with the band: catchy riffs, sly lyrics, and the uncanny ability for the track to get stuck in your head, until you exorcise it by finding another tune to replace it. I suggest the theme song from TV's Barney, the Purple Dinosaur, but then homicide may be in order to release that demon from your head. But, hey, it worked for me. (Editor's Note: Not the homicide part.)
An early set offering was the 2008 hit "1,2,3,4," to which the crowd went full on apeshit. Hands raised, fingers counting, beers spilling, this was one of the tunes that the audience came to hear. The other, of course, was Higgenson's lament, "Hey There, Delilah."
"Don't worry," Higgenson reassured the crowd. "We'll do Delilah later, much later in the set." Relieved, a collective sigh was released from the panicked early-middle-aged crowd.
By mid-set, the frontman said they wanted to change it up a bit and offer something they they grew up on, '80s pop. The only tune they covered was the Romantics' "Talking In Your Sleep." It was a faithful rendition, but tinged with a Plain White T's vibe.
The acoustics of the Cambridge Room have always been a little muddy, but the band lit up the plaster-walled, high ceiling rectangle with a wall of sound that would have easily filled a room five times as large. Lead axeman Lopez next took up the reins on his opus, "Rhythm of Love."
Taking a brief break, the five guys then returned to the smallish stage and gave up the tune that everyone had come to hear. "Delilah" became a raucous sing-along as every attendee spat back the words to the band onstage. Higgenson stood there, bemused, as each verse was repeated to him, note and pitch perfect.
Ending the hundred-minute set with "End of the World," a cut from the new album, seemed a strange way to leave their Cleveland tour stop. As opposed to offering something old, they seemed to want to hook the crowd in with the future of the band.
I wonder if Delilah would approve.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley