Credit: Navid Iqbal
For those of you who don’t know it, boredom can be a rather compelling phenomenon in Qatar. To put it another way: when one does not really have anything to do, one is inclined to really do anything. And so it is that I found myself in attendance of a OneRepublic concert at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha. Now please don’t jump to any conclusions, readers. I am far from a vehement critic of the band, or as some would choose to label it, a ‘hater’. To be quite honest, their music is probably as inoffensive as it comes, and neither can I really fault them for writing ultra catchy chartbusters (‘Apologize’, I believe, is the best selling single of the decade). If anything, I would place OneRepublic in the upper echelon of modern pop rock acts, but then again perhaps that isn’t saying too much. My point here is that I am but a casual listener of OneRepublic that was only well-acquainted with a handful of their songs (you can probably guess which ones, too) before going to the gig.
And yet there I was, sitting on Seat 21G in Section B of the Convention Centre Auditorium; delighted at my excellent view, confused as to why anybody would require seats at a concert (I would understand later) and anxious as to whether or not the experience would be worth the QR 300 that I spent to acquire the ticket (yes and no, more on that later). The ushers were handing out glow sticks at the entrances, my own being a putrid yellow, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had accidentally wandered into a rave instead of a rock show. The set-up looked spectacular; fluorescent lights, large screen monitors on the walls, numerous cameras to broadcast all the action, as well as a sizeable stage and high quality sound equipment. Even as the pre-show DJ (his name escapes us all) spun his brand of derivative billboard hits, one could already begin to hear the crowd’s anticipation, and if one listened very closely, one could also pick out the predominant screams of pre to post-pubescent females that surrounded this nineteen year-old male reviewer. As good a crowd as Doha could muster up, no doubt.
Image Credit: Kiran Sunil
Seemingly out of nowhere, OneRepublic took to the stage, opening up with ‘Everybody Loves Me’, a song with plenty of personality and a catchy chorus, courtesy of vocalist Ryan Tedder. Let’s get this out of the way now; OneRepublic is essentially the Ryan Tedder show. The man is a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter as well as producer, not only for OneRepublic but also various other artists ranging from Kelly Clarkson and Far East Movement to Maroon 5 and Sebastian Ingrosso. Between juggling piano, bass, acoustic guitar, and tambourine over the duration of the concert, he ignited the crowd with his exceptional voice, especially his signature (if a little overused) high pitched croon. He particularly shone on vocal centric tracks such as the aforementioned ‘Apologize’, which was concluded by his venturing into the middle of an ecstatic crowd (followed by security, of course) and an interactive call-and-response section of the chorus. Credit must also be given to lead guitarist Zach Filkins, who played a masterful lead section on crowd pleaser ‘Stop and Stare’ that I had never heard before, as well as his counterpart on rhythm guitar, Drew Brown, who was incredibly animated on stage.
In hindsight, Tedder and co. were at their best while keeping the songs upbeat and the energy levels high. For instance, the mid-tempo ‘Good Life’ with Tedder’s clever lyric alteration to “To my friends in Doha, I say hello” was quite well received, as was my personal favourite by the band, ‘All The Right Moves’ which not only kept me on my feet but also swept me off them during the fantastic choruses. Meanwhile, slower tracks like the less than stellar ‘Lullaby’ seemed to be just that, making me understand the importance of having a seat to relax on and another track (the name escapes me) which Tedder dedicated to “all the people that are here with somebody else, and all the people that wish they were here with somebody else”, made me wish that I wasn’t there at all for its duration, as I engaged myself with playing with my glow stick. Tedder addressed the crowd every couple of songs, and was admittedly an entertaining front-man, between running around the stage changing instruments to likening the cultural diversity in Doha to being “at a United Nations conference or something.”
One aspect of OneRepublic which differentiates them from the sea of pop-rock imitators is their interesting use of string instruments. Accordingly, when Brent Kutzle drops his bass guitar and picks up a cello and lead guitarist Filkins does the same with a viola for hit single ‘Secrets’, it produces one of the best moments of the concert. The same can be said of ‘Come Home’, the final track on their 2007 outing ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ which served as the exception to the ‘slow is worse’ rule with its melancholy cello lines and great lyrical moments.
Between their original compositions, OneRepublic also played some covers to keep things fresh. Apart from throwing in a surprise chorus of “We found love in a hopeless place” during the outro of ‘Stop and Stare’, the band also covered ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King, ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes and Justin Timberlake’s ‘SexyBack’ in a medley. The result was a resounding success, between Seven Nation Army’s galloping bass riff and Tedder’s declarations of “I’m bringing sexy back!” On the whole, OneRepublic put on a respectable performance that left the crowd wanting more (but that could be because of its brief 90 minute duration). They may not have made a fan out of me yet, but they certainly did find a cure to my boredom, and that is all I can really ask of them.
Image Credit: Navid Iqbal
OneRepublic is a pop rock band from Colorado Springs, Colorado. They are:
- Ryan Tedder – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, keyboard, bass guitar, tambourine, African drum (2002–present)
- Zach Filkins – lead guitar, viola, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2002–present)
- Drew Brown – rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboard, glockenspiel, marimba, bass guitar, piano, tambourine, backing vocals (2002–present)
- Eddie Fisher – drums, percussion, African drum, cajón (2005–present)
- Brent Kutzle – bass guitar, cello, acoustic guitar, keyboard, piano, lead guitar, backing vocals (2007–present)