It’s easy to understand people who forget about OneRepublic, which headlined the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Sunday night.
The band toured Los Angeles for five years before hitting it big with their 2007 debut single “Apologize,” infectious, arena-ready pop rocker with hip-hop nods and slick production. reminiscent of contemporary Christian music.
OneRepublic continued to find success in this vein for a few years, but things started to fall apart in the mid-10s. Lead singer Ryan Tedder never quite had the charisma to become a household name, struggled with the rigors of promotion and touring and focused more on his second gig as an in-demand songwriter and producer for other acts (more on that later). That, and Imagine Dragons followed the OneRepublic formula and became a much larger group in the process.
So why are they back now? In recent interviews, Tedder talked about the Beach Boys/Mamas and Papas vibes on his band’s upcoming album. (Oddly, he also said “nobody’s really done anything like it since then,” which ignores a slew of indie rock acts doing just that, starting with Dr. Dog, Animal Collective, and the Explorers Club.)
Two tasters of this new direction emerged on Sunday night, the single “West Coast” and “I Ain’t Worried,” which Tedder wrote after Tom Cruise asked him to create a song for the beach scene in Top Gun: Maverick. The latter connected with listeners and gave OneRepublic its biggest radio hit in eight years. (They played it near the end of the main set, with a video introduction from Cruise himself.)
Beyond that, it was an evening of OneRepublic’s most popular material. As Tedder recently stated, “We literally leaned into the data. We looked at which songs were the most listened to – downloaded, consumed, streamed, the biggest hits we’ve ever had… I want to appeal to as many people as possible on the show.
Well, Tedder and company seemed to please the 9,500 people who showed up Sunday night. Although it was the actual songs, rather than the band, that grabbed the attention. As was the case on OneRepublic’s last local headlining show in 2014, Tedder was full of energy but tended to get lost among the big screens, stage fog and confetti.
The big hits – “Counting Stars”, “Stop and Stare”, “Apologize” – were all warmly received by the crowd. And Tedder nodded to the summer’s most unexpected hit, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” playing a bit of it at the end of “Good Life.”
But the most compelling part of the show was dedicated to airing songs that Tedder co-wrote and/or produced outside of the band. For about 20 minutes, with mostly minimal support, Tedder made their way through the air and told the stories behind them. He also really relaxed as he tackled a set that included Beyonce’s “Halo”, Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” and Adele’s “Rumor Has It”. (Earlier in the set, the band played their own “Love Runs Out,” Tedder’s blatant rewrite of Adele’s smash.)
‘The Voice’ season 14 champ Brynn Cartelli opened, followed by an hour-long set from Needtobreathe, a rock band from South Carolina who do big business on Christian radio and flirt with mainstream success for 15 years. Judging by the enthusiastic reception from the crowd, it seems more than a few people were there to see them, not the headliner.