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Alternative formal: Vance Joy headlines prom-themed concert

Members of all four sets of musicians that performed at the Afentra’s Prom concert at the Midland theater on Friday commented on the unusual theme of the event.

Recalling that he watched a pre-concert procession from his tour bus as if it was a “fashion parade,” headliner Vance Joy said that “I knew it was going to be a good audience because the line was two laps around the block.”

The exceedingly long lines to gain entry didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the members of the capacity audience. Giddy screams resounded through the Midland theater throughout the four-hour concert.

Representatives of the radio station 96.5 The Buzz, the sponsor of the free event, strongly encouraged listeners to attend the concert in formal wear. Teenage girls unaccustomed to the footwear wobbled on high heels while many young men proudly displayed creative variations of the elegant theme.

They heard an odd assemblage of entertainers.

Joy is poised to challenge Ed Sheeran at the decade’s dominant young male singer-songwriter. His prospects will be greatly enhanced when he serves as the opening act on a Taylor Swift tour later this year.

The rangy Australian received more good news earlier in the week. A panel of judges that included the Lee's Summit native Pat Metheny named Joy's "Riptide" as the winner of the 2014 International Songwriting Competition.

Joy strummed a ukulele as he was accompanied by a tasteful three-piece band on Friday’s rendition of the big hit.

Painfully earnest and unabashedly mellow, Joy is a lovesick troubadour. He introduced “Emmylou” as “a kind of lullaby.” The description applies to most of the songs on his 2014 debut album.

The serene approach wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Hundreds of people left during Joy’s solo acoustic versions of “”My Kind of Man” and “All I Ever Wanted.”

Many of those disgruntled patrons were likely fans of the Kooks. Although the British rock band has struggled to find success in the United States, the quartet easily won over Friday’s audience.

Supplemented by an additional musician, the Kooks made a strong case that it’s more than a low-budget version of the Kinks or a warmed-over variation of the Arctic Monkeys. The celebratory disco of “Westside” and the inviting dance workout “Forgive & Forget” showcased the band’s drift towards soul music.

The Kooks are a rock band that wants to dance. Joywave, the New York based quintet that preceded the Kooks, is a dance band that wants to rock.

As exemplified by the serpentine hit “Tongues,” Joywave combines the catchiest elements of 1980s synth-pop with today’s electronic dance music. Yet Joywave looked and sounded like a rock band on Friday.

The charismatic front man Daniel Armbruster noted that his group didn’t dress for the occasion.

“You guys look great and we look like schlubs from Rochester, New York,” he said.

The Kansas City quintet Hembree held its own during its opening set. Aside from a comparatively lackluster stage presence, the Kansas City quintet pleased the appreciative audience with 30 minutes of sprightly indie-pop.

VANCE JOY SET LIST: From Afar, Red Eye, Winds of Change, Wasted Time, Mess is Mine, My Kind of Man, All I Ever Wanted, Emmylou, Georgia, Best That I Can, Riptide

KOOKS SET LIST: Around Town, Bad Habit, Ooh La, Down, It Was London, She Moves in Her Own Way, Westside, Always Where I Need to Be, Is It Me, Sway, Sweet Emotion, Forgive & Forget, See Me Now, Junk of the Heart (Happy), Naïve