Donnelly: Plain White T’s at the Bottleneck, April 12, 2011

"Let’s make this a moment, Lawrence," urged lead singer Tom Higgenson as girls and women screamed uncontrollably.  No panties or bras were flying through the air or anything, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had been.

Higgenson was about to play "Hey There Delilah" solo, on a makeshift stage at the back of the room following the full band’s set.  The effect was executed well, and Higgenson got back to the stage without being ripped to shreds by teens and cougars alike. 

Just think what would’ve happened if they hadn’t played "Delilah," the song that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 a few years back, and that you might pay someone to erase from your memory permanently (it’s pretty catchy). 

Bad things.   

Chicago pop-rockers Plain White T’s played to a 2/3 full all-ages Bottleneck crowd, which was pretty good for a Tuesday night in L-town.  Certainly the most enthusiastic and numerous attendees were the ladies, from younger teens to late twenties and up.  They came to hear the T’s’ simple love songs, many of which sound like Jason Mraz crossed with Panic! At the Disco or Dashboard Confessional.  

And that’s a good thing because it seems that most all of the T’s songs are about love, love lost, or lovers scorned.  But hey, it’s working for them, so just go with it, right?

Touring on their newest album, "Wonders of the Younger," which was released last summer, the band didn’t skimp on old favorites.  In fact, I think the T’s played about every song in their bag that has ever charted, of which there are more than you might think.  It’s one of those deals where you hear the song and say, "I didn’t realize that was the Plain White T’s," after hearing it on the radio for three months. 

Though somewhat formulaic, the set left the true fans happy, delivering to them exactly what they expected – nothing more, nothing less.

Throughout, the T’s displayed themselves as a road-savvy band, switching from pop-rocker to sensitive ballad and back with nary a seam.  Their sound was tight, and the drummer pounded his set with more fury than a lot of much harder bands I’ve seen lately, which was kind of refreshing to see out of a mainstream-ish band like this.  Overall, well balanced, good backing vocals, and you could tell these guys have been doing this a while.

So, yes, they played their newest hit, "Rhythm of Love," which has been featured on NBC’s "Parenthood" and ABC’s "Secret Life of the American Teenager."  Guitarist Tim Lopez prefaced the hit by saying, "Good women are few and far between," as he explained that the song was written about an ex-girlfriend.  This song received the second most enthusiastic response from the audience (based on shrill screams) behind the aforementioned "Delilah."   

And yes, of course they played "1,2,3,4," a song that Hallmark picked up and used in one of their Valentine’s Day promos. 

Starting to see a pattern here?

The Plain White T’s write songs that just sound like they belong in a soundtrack to a teen movie or in a commercial. 

Risk takers?  Um, no. 

But they do what they do, and they’re good at it.  Is that so wrong?  Is it?  No, seriously, I don’t really know. 

As the night came to a close, the T’s busted out yet another of those radio friendly songs that you probably didn’t know was them – "Hate (I Really Don’t Like You)."  The sweaty, vested members of the band thanked Lawrence and left the crowd content.

Nothing wrong with that.
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