‘Plain White T’s’ give rousing concert

By Ginger Simons

Alternative rock band Plain White T’s took the stage 7 p.m. Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., rocking the crowd with a polished, energetic show that proved their new material is just as much of a blast to listen to as their beloved hits.

Indie pop band Like Language opened the show with a set of rich, acoustic pop. Like the Plain White T’s, the band is from Lombard, and was formed by singer-songwriters Matthew Murray and Kristen Donnelly. Their first song of the night, Living For Today” introduced their soft, melodic sound and the strength of the vocalists harmonies.

Lead singer Donnelly’s vocals resonated through the theatre space with impressive range, driving home the emotion of the songs. Though her voice has a classical vibrato perfect for belting out the slower ballads, when the band pulled out an upbeat song, she effortlessly adapted back into a more pop vocal style.

The band was able to manage creating a rich, full sound with only three musicians onstage. “Whatever You Want” is among the several songs of the evening that showcased the combined power of the Murray and Donnelly’s vocals as they combined in harmony.

After Like Language warmed up the crowd, the Plain White T’s took the stage to a deluge of lights and applause, immediately delving into the song “Light Up the Room.” Taking a cue from the band’s energy, the audience began singing and clapping along and continued to do so throughout the set.

In their album “Parallel Universe,” the band experiments with sounds not found on their earlier earlier albums. Taking a slight detour from their alternative rock and acoustic pop sensibilities, the band’s newest material heavily features synth instrumentation and Vocoder vocal effects.

These electronic touches lost nothing from the transition from the studio to the concert stage, and each song sounded as crisp live as it did on the album. Tracks from the album felt right at home among the band’s more well-known hits.

Lead singer Tom Higgenson had a comfortable and personable stage presence when addressing the crowd, and between songs, he took a moment to recount a show they played in DeKalb at Otto’s before it permanently closed in 2017.

“It’s like a hometown show,” Higgenson said after several band members remarked of friends and relatives who had attended NIU.

Guitarist Tim Lopez took lead mic for songs like “No Imitations” and “The Giving Tree,” two songs very different in tone. “No Imitations” pumped an aggressive but emotional energy into the room, while “The Giving Tree” cooled the set down with a softer melody.

The band played an enjoyable rendition of The Romantics’ “Talking In Your Sleep,” visibly enjoying playing an old classic. The band incorporated their own alternative style into the arrangement, and the song didn’t feel out of place within a set of otherwise contemporary songs.

Though the crowd seemed well prepared to sing along to songs from the band’s newest album, the most enthusiastic response came with old favorites. The crowd obliged when Higgenson asked the audience to hold a single note, which he used to lead the band into the song “Our Time Now.”

The band returned for an encore, and when the opening notes to “Hey There Delilah” rang out into the theatre, the crowd responded with explosive applause. The penultimate song of the set brought together the sounds of Higginson’s voice, the collective chorus of the audience and the powerful simplicity of a solitary acoustic guitar.