To kick off 2020, alternative rock groups American Authors and MAGIC GIANT hit the road together on a 34-city tour that started in January and will end February 27 in New York City. The bands are co-headliners on the tour dubbed the Band of Brothers Road Show, and they made sure to create an unforgettable experience.
Kicking off the night was Van Bellman, spearheaded by Brooklyn-based musician Zac Taylor. Initially, Van Bellman wasn’t set to open, but members for the original opening band, PUBLIC, were sick and unable to perform. But for a set that was put together at quite literally the last minute, Van Bellman killed it. Armed with his voice and a guitar for most of the set, Taylor brought his A-game, performing with the gusto of someone who had weeks to prepare. His set was highly enjoyable, and it was apparent that he was enjoying himself, especially near the end, when he had a full band join in on the fun.
After Van Bellman were the co-headliners. To decide which band would play first, Taylor enlisted the help of a couple of people in the crowd for a game of Plinko, and the band who hit two out of three first would start. MAGIC GIANT was the determined winner. Before their actual set, however, they were joined on stage with American Authors to play the chorus of their newest single “Disaster Party,” getting the crowd hyped up before the real deal.
The first full song they sang was “Celebrate the Reckless,” and their performance was immediately full of life and vigor, setting the bar (that kept getting higher and higher) for the rest of the night. They followed with “Glass Heart,” where the next major audience interaction happened. When they hit the instrumental break after the chorus, they requested everyone on the floor jump to the side, going to the left first. Meanwhile, the band was mirroring, jumping the length of the stage. Next up was “Hideaway,” “Jade,” and they concluded their first part of the concert with the full version of “Disaster Party.” I haven’t seen MAGIC GIANT live before, so I wasn’t really certain what to expect. I was in for a real treat, and they exceeded my expectations. I loved watching them all dance with each other and keeping everyone entertained. By this point, I had figured out that it could, and would, only get better.
American Authors took the stage next. They began their set with “Believer,” a song off their debut album, followed by “Stay Around” off their most recent album. Once the crowd was warmed up, they went into “Right Here Right Now.” This one was a great choice to ramp up the energy set by MAGIC GIANT. “Say Amen” was up next, along with “Go Big or Go Home,” which kept everyone moving. They finished their first mini-set with “Oh, What a Life,” one of their most well-known songs. This was my third time seeing American Authors live, and my favorite so far. They still put on a terrific performance, and it was great hearing them play a variety of songs from their albums.
Both bands played their first small sets, but the night was far from over. In fact, it was just getting started. After a brief intermission, MAGIC GIANT returned to the stage to sing an acoustic version of “Great Divide,” except they didn’t stay on the stage for long. Austin Bisnow, the lead singer for MAGIC GIANT, asked the crowd if the band could go down on the floor and join them, to which the answer was an obvious and resounding yes. For the entirety of the song, the group performed in the middle of the floor. While both versions of the song are wonderful, I prefer the acoustic version slightly more, and the acoustic version live is even better. I loved their decision to play it in the crowd. Additionally, phone flashlights were on, lighting up the venue and adding to the overall effect. This was one of my favorite songs of the night.
Switching again, American Authors took over for a song, doing an acoustic version of “Luck.” Though their lead singer, Zac Barnett, remained on stage, the rest of the band went through the crowd, adding a couple more instruments, mostly drums, for the second half of the song. The added bass from the drum made the song and the venue feel lively in a more visceral way; you could literally feel it as they were playing. Once the rest of the band made it back to the stage, they were joined by MAGIC GIANT for a cover of “Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel. (Who do I need to talk to about getting their version recorded and released?) Afterward, there was another quick intermission.
When I think about bands co-headlining a tour, I expect that one band will play their set and switch off with the second band playing their set. That’s been my experience in the past with co-headliners. Naturally, I fully expected to watch one band at a time perform a full set. I have never been so excited to be wrong. For much of the night, members from the non-performing band would join in and perform with the band on stage. Occasionally, both bands would be on stage together, even if one was just providing back-up and support.
Eventually, they went back to playing one at a time, but that was short-lived as the show started to reach its end. The next section belonged to MAGIC GIANT, who started their next part with “Rocketman” (which is not a cover of the Elton John song). As the song is one that features American Authors, Barnett joined in singing with them. They followed with “Nothin’ Left.” Next up was “Shake Me Up,” which was an entire dance party in and of itself, from the band and the crowd. After, they performed a brand-new, unreleased song Bisnow said they weren’t even finished writing, but it was fantastic. Before officially starting, Bisnow had everyone learn the chorus, and by the time they were ready to go, everyone was singing along as though they’d heard it a thousand times. Their final song before trading off was “Set on Fire.”
One of the noteworthy occurrences of the night didn’t involve music at all. It was around this time when the person running the sound (whose name escapes me) was pulled onto the stage. Barnett first told us to give a round of applause to the sound guy for his hard work, then told us that it was his birthday. After we all wished the sound guy happy birthday, it was promptly followed by him getting a faceful of cake.
Turning up the heat, American Authors launched into “Bring It on Home,” which they performed with MAGIC GIANT and was another big dance party. Then came “Neighborhood” and their newest song “Microphone,” which they sang entirely in the crowd. This song also included another notable moment of audience involvement. For part of the song, Barnett asked everyone to get as low to the ground as they could with him. He, and the rest of us, remained crouched while he continued singing, biding his time. Finally, he jumped up, prompting everyone to do the same with him until the end of the song. Next, they took a more solemn turn with “Deep Water,” my favorite American Authors’ song, and one of the songs I was most excited to hear live. Although it’s originally a song with only American Authors singing, Bisnow returned to the stage to perform it with them, and he fit right in. They ended with “I’m Born to Run” before heading into the final, most energetic section of the show.
Taking the lead was MAGIC GIANT with “Window.” American Authors followed with “Best Day of My Life,” building up more and more excitement (who knew that was possible?) before the final song of the night. At last, with everyone — American Authors, MAGIC GIANT, Van Bellman, one of PUBLIC’s non-afflicted members, EVERYONE — on stage, the groups ended with a cover of “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, with the audience singing with them just as loud. I thought this was an interesting song to end on. I liked that they decided to cover a song together rather than end with one group’s song, even if they still sang it together. It emphasized them as one unit rather than various separate ones.
This was perhaps one of the best concerts I’ve attended. First and foremost, all the performers had incredible and infectious energy. It was nearly impossible not to dance and sing along. Even while I was in the photo pit, I couldn’t help but dance just the tiniest bit. They were excited about PUBLIC joining them on tour and still gave all their support and excitement, despite PUBLIC being unable to perform. Another reason the night was so memorable is the connection American Authors and MAGIC GIANT had with the audience. The ways they found to include the crowd in the most interactive ways possible made it easier to get lost in the show. They made sure we were all as energized as they were and enjoying ourselves (which we definitely were). Finally, the title of their tour seemed to fit perfectly with the way they interacted with each other. It wasn’t difficult to tell they genuinely enjoy performing with each other. If you ever find the chance, these groups are ones you don’t want to miss on tour. It’s guaranteed to be the best night of your life.
Stay tuned for more photos from the show!