The sky played a large role in Wednesday night’s Buzz Under the Stars show at Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park.
Not long after Alabama Shakes had finished a robust set, and while stage crews were getting things ready for Garbage, organizers shut down the festival to wait out a storm. The delay would last more than 21/2 hours. Instead of the scheduled 7:15 p.m., Garbage took the stage after 9:45 p.m. They would play before the largest crowd of the night — several thousand.
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By the time Silversun Pickups closed the show before one of the smallest crowds of the night, it was nearly 1:15 a.m. — more than eight hours after the five-band show began.
Shakes is a four-piece vintage rock-soul-blues band led by fiery lead singer Brittany Howard, a 23-year-old who sounds like another era. Their music evokes an array of influences, from Otis Redding and Janis Joplin to the Stones, Led Zeppelin and bits of the Stax Records catalog. Faint resemblances to the early Kings of Leon also emerge now and then. Thursday’s set list included “Goin’ to the Party,” “Hold On,” “Heavy Chevy” and “I Ain’t the Same.” Shakes followed opener Electric Guest.
Garbage spent more time setting up than it did performing. The band’s dynamo lead singer, Shirley Manson, thanked fans copiously for waiting out the wind and rain, thanked everyone for the double rainbow it all produced, then rewarded them with a six-song, 30 minute set. It was interrupted when a fight broke out up front and Manson stopped to try to restore some calm.
The band sang a new one, “Control,” a couple of favorites, such as “Push It,” “Stupid Girl” and “Special.” And it closed with “Only Happy When It Rains,” which prompted an outburst of joy but felt like salt in the wound after such a criminally brief set from a band that hasn’t played these parts (as far as I can remember) since opening for U2 at Kemper Arena in November 2001.
Garbage gave way to Fun, which has played here three times since April. Its set was pretty much like the other two: filled with lots of effervescence and glee. Its 10-song, 45-minute set included glammy show tune pop anthems like “One Foot,” “Why Am I the One?,” “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be),” “Carry On” and “We Are Young,” the song that launched Fun out of obscurity.
Theatrical lead man Nate Ruess is the perfect showboat for his band’s bright and flashy songs. A good chunk of the crowd left after Fun’s set, which also could have been attributed to the rain delay. By the time Fun’s set was over, it was 20 minutes before midnight.
Silversun Pickups brought the night to a close, reviving the guitar-rock sounds of the ’90s. Comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins are unavoidable, but on some of its latest material, the band does give that brand of heavy rock a few twists, mostly through manic drummer Chris Guanlao and keyboardist Joe Lester. A 10-song, 65-minute set opened with “Skin Graph,” one of four songs played from the “Neck of the Woods” album, released in May.
The band played a few off the “Swoon” album, including “The Royal We,” “Panic Switch” and “Catch and Release,” and closed with its biggest hit, “Lazy Eye,” from the debut album, “Carnavas,” now six years old. By the time the band started “Lazy Eye,” the crowd size had dwindled into the hundreds, but they were diehards who didn’t let the weather and sleep deprivation keep them from hearing a favorite song one more time.
A word about the venue: The sound was good, the sight lines were good and the grounds in general make a fine setting for live concerts. The stage faced north, toward the Missouri River, between the Paseo and Heart of America bridges. The next show at this park is Sept. 14: Gotye with Chairlift and Zammuto.