Call it a wild-card.
Last year, RodeoHouston took a gamble when programming electronic act The Chainsmokers and pop-punk band Blink-182, with varying levels of success. OneRepublic took the honors of being the odd rock band out when the 2018 line-up came out earlier this year, a safer choice than those two previous acts that wouldn’t upset the sensibilities of many rodeo goers, even country diehards, especially a younger audience — of 70,929 — coming out to celebrate a March 14 night on spring break.
OneRepublic albums are middle-of-the-road rock that Top 40, adult contemporary and alt-rock radio are happy to play as people motor through their day. Take some Maroon 5 vocal strut, pseudo-Coldplay choruses, Mumford and Sons harmonies and guitar strums, and a dose of M83 lite synths, add them to a musical blender — and you’ll get a facsimile of what this Colorado Springs six-piece sounds like.
Give it to lead songwriter and vocalist Ryan Tedder — he made a career on writing songs that do just enough to prevent folks from changing the station.
He made the point for us during his band’s 14-song set: “For those of you who have ever gone grocery shopping in their life, raise your hands – you’ve heard this song,” he told the audience just before the “Yellow”-esque hit single “Stop and Stare.”
And if you didn’t know how famous Tedder was, he let us know often, namedropping all those he’s written or produced songs for including Adele, Carrie Underwood, U2, and Paul McCartney. He and his band are big, people.
But how would this melodic lite rock come across with the boots and saddles crowd used to seeing some of the biggest country acts in the world?
Thankfully, the group has enough stadium-sized hooks to make a show like this interesting and moments throughout the night made an impact. Opener “Love Runs Out” from 2014 album Native was a driving piano-led tune got ticket holders revved up, leading to another Top 40 single, “Secrets” from 2009 smash Waking Up, which made good use of cello player Brent Kutzle.
A two-song interlude of Tedder-penned songs was well received. First, a cover of the Beyoncé slow jam “Halo” had the stadium lit up with cell phones, Tedder’s expert piano playing and vocal trills mixing perfectly with Kutzle’s cello pairing. The youth also gave approval to the follow up, a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Happier.”
Their No. 2 hits, “Apologize,” made famous by a Timbaland remix, released on the group's 2007 debut Dreaming Out Loud; and the Native LP bestseller, “Counting Stars,” got the crowd clapping and singing along, the latter being one of the few times it felt like NRG was rocking on Wednesday night.
Tedder’s Adam Levine-like vocals were silky smooth throughout and showed impressive range, as if he was trying to fill the stadium with his voice alone. But in terms of showmanship, five of the six members of OneRepublic stood firmly in place, methodically and professionally plying their wares. While Tedder claimed the Stars Over Texas stage was the “absolute coolest rotating stage I have ever been on in my entire life,” he made very little use of the distinctive five points, instead preferring to stay in the confines of his bandmates.
“Something always feels settled and good and calming when in Texas,” Hedder said, before breaking into the pure schmaltz of another Top 40 hit, “I Lived.” Unfortunately, for those who saw other acts like Garth Brooks and Leon Bridges earlier at RodeoHouston, no one told him that it’s okay to bring the heat to NRG.
OneRepublic came and did what they were paid to do, which was play the hits. Like the band’s musical output, it did just enough to get the job done, only too many of their songs sounded like one extended soundtrack doing little to distinguish themselves. As the final notes of pretty, EDM inflected set-closer “If I Lose Myself Tonight” rang out, the crowd orderly filed towards the doors, content to go on with their lives after another night at RodeoHouston.
One Republic Set list
“Love Runs Out”
“Deep In The Heart of Texas” interlude
“Wherever I Go”
“Stop and Stare”
“Halo” (Beyoncé cover)
“Happier” (Ed Sheeran cover)
“All The Right Moves”
“If I Lose Myself Tonight”