Rooney Make the “Heart” Grow Fonder

Event Date: December 11, 2009
Venue: Webster Hall

More Rooney, please

“Deliver the goods.”  It’s an expression I’ve heard a lot lately and, when I think about the band Rooney, that’s exactly what comes to mind.  This band always delivers the goods.  If you go to concerts for glitz and glamour, a Rooney show is not for you.  If you’re like me, and prize a rocking good time that cuts straight to the point, well…you probably had your tickets before I did.

This proudly Californian-based quintet gets on that stage, brings the house down with an old-school “jam” session, and promises that they’ll do the exact same thing every time.  Such a clean-cut approach is part of what makes Rooney concerts so unique and why I’ve looked forward to seeing them, every chance I get, since discovering them during a 2004 episode of “The O.C.”.

The first thing to know is that Rooney concerts are always intimate.  I remember seeing them for the first time as they played to a large crowd, 5 or 6 years ago, and feeling the same way then as I did at this Webster Hall show.  Mainly, that me and a bunch of my buddies were hanging out in a friend’s garage, watching them get down.  Dressed in casual attire, these boys need no extras. Its a rush, when they cue up that first song and its words are so familiar in your mouth that it’s like you’re just voicing your own thoughts.  Invigorating, when you hear the first strains of “Blueside” which is what they opened up with.

Louie Stephens and Taylor Locke

Robert and Taylor, getting down to business

Robert Schwartzman, Rooney’s front man and principle song writer, is never afraid to interact with the audience, even when that can sometimes lead to mild forms of “abuse”. I stood next to two drunk lawyers who kept screaming at him to pull his pants down!  Outside of this, describing a Rooney concert is almost terrifyingly simple.  A sea of fans, faces plastered with grins, butts shaking, feet stomping, and, on stage across from them, five guys doing what they were obviously born to do.

They played the requisite songs from their back catalog such as “I’m A Terrible Person”, “Daisy Duke” and, “Where Did Your Heart Go Missing”, of course.  These are always crowd pleasers.  I think, though, that we all look forward to those moments when the boys completely cut loose and bring out something unexpected, usually during a cover or encore (their rendition of “Helter Skelter” nearly killed me last time around).  This time, the main cover was of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World” featuring Ned, usually on drums, at the helm instead of Robert.  Taylor, too, was in top form, displaying a guitar mastery that always weakens the knees.

Ned Brower, taking the lead

Taylor, letting it wail

There's just something about that guitar...

Seeing as how this was a tour dedicated to the release of Rooney’s latest EP, The Wild One, I couldn’t wait to see what the band had come up with since the last album and I was MORE than pleasantly surprised.  One particular song, “Suckceed” positively blew me away in lyrics and melody, as well as sheer delivery, and is a glimpse at the band’s maturing sound.  This isn’t to say that any previous songs have been “immature”!  On the contrary, just one look at the sensual (read: occasionally delightfully dirty) lryics penned by Robert and you’ll know that’s definitely not the case.  Its just that this song, as well as others on “The Wild One” make it obvious how much the band has grown in their style and how comfortable they are with what they’ve accomplished.

One of the highlights of the show was when a California Republic flag, used by the band to represent themselves since their inception, was handed to the audience to wave and pass around.  Another, which brought on plenty of cheers of delight, is when “Pop Stars” was played; the song hadn’t been performed live in several years.  As far as venues go, Webster Hall also lent to that aforementioned intimacy vibe.  However, it would’ve been nice to see them at Irving Plaza again.

Sure, I'll be Californian for a few hours!

The evening's drink of choice

Gracious as always, Rooney made sure to repay their fans with a “meet and greet” for all who’d purchased the EP.  For anyone who’s been unable to make a Rooney show this tour, “The Wild One” just became available for download from iTunes and the band’s website.  Go.  Listen.  Enjoy.  And, if you fall a little in love with their infectious California-rock sound, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Rooney are: Robert Schwartzman, Ned Brower, Taylor Locke, Louie Stephens and Matt Winter. More info below:

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