Votes are in: Saint Motel’s ‘The Awards Show’ tour is set for success with fan-selected songs


Joanne Haner/Daily Senior Staffer

Saint Motel plays the opening night of their tour, “The Awards Show,” at Metro Chicago.

Lexi Goldstein, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

Cue the applause: Indie-pop band Saint Motel took the stage Monday at the intimate Metro Chicago for the first stop on its “The Awards Show” tour.  

The band is known to mesh cinema and music together, as seen in its albums “Saintmotelevision” and “The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.”  

Prior to the performance, concert attendees could vote for four songs to be played during the show —  each slot had three options from past albums. A playful way to bring old favorites back to the mainstage, the selection was a change of pace from most concerts, where a new album is typically the sole focus. Instead, the emphasis was on enjoying the band’s whole discography.

Before the award show began, opener Homes at Night delivered soulful notes on original “Bonnaroo,” a stripped-down cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” and “Texaco,” a track the alternative duo will release at midnight Friday. 

In front of a golden curtain, Saint Motel members frontman AJ Jackson, guitarist Aaron Sharp, bassist Dak Lerdamornpong and drummer Greg Erwin emerged to greet the crowd with their hit song about a bar crush, “Van Horn.” 

Then came time for the first of four envelopes to be opened, with each one containing the song that received the most votes from attendees. The winner for the first song was rock opera “Daydream/Wetdream/Nightmare,” which transported audience members to three stages of a dream that corresponded to three distinct parts of the song.

Sticking with the 2012 album “Voyeur,” Saint Motel got the crowd moving with plastic surgery commentary in “Puzzle Pieces.” The second envelope and a collective drumroll on the thighs gave way to fan-favorite track “1997,” written about the Heaven’s Gate cult. The sweet piano is offset by sinister lyrics: “It’s gonna happen / In 1997” — later followed up with: “Then it happened / In 1997.” 

After the nod to “Voyeur,” Jackson introduced the unreleased track, “Everyone’s a Guru Now.” This performance was the first time the band had played the track for a live audience, and though it was well received, the contrast between the group’s new and old sound was apparent, with the former veering more into pop than indie. 

Throughout the night, Jackson’s studio-quality vocals and perfect belting elevated each and every song. A unique performer, Jackson juggled playing multiple instruments while delivering engaging frontman energy. Live saxophone and trumpet solos transformed the room into an electric atmosphere just in time for Sharp to open the third envelope and reveal “For Elise,” an ode to famous muses. 

Most of the band’s commercial successes were tucked away in the second half of the show once the crowd was fully warmed up. Jackson led the crowd in singing “bah bah” for “Saintmotelevision” classic “Sweet Talk.” A crowd favorite, the lyrics tell of a hopeless romantic: “You could yell, ‘Piss off! Won’t you stay away?’ / It’ll still be sweet talk to my ears.” 

Surprisingly, the crowd was most rowdy not when a favorite song was announced, but when an attendee was brought onstage to open the final envelope. The crowd was cheering for audience member “Dave” even after “Sisters” was introduced. 

The crowd that stuck around for the encore was in for a treat. Staying true to the award show theme, once the band exited the stage, a projector started playing an orchestral medley of Saint Motel’s slower songs. 

After the “Balsa Wood Bones” instrumental came on, Jackson reentered to sing about taking down a bully. The few teary eyes in the crowd were immediately wiped in time to mosh for “Destroyer,” and then the main event: “My Type,” arguably Saint Motel’s most popular song. A fantastic closer with a catchy tune, Jackson took the song to the next level by stepping off the stage and wandering into the crowd. Dancing all the way up to the balcony, Jackson had incredible energy, truly reinforcing his reputation as an interactive and fun frontman.

The show was perfect for fans itching to hear some past material live again, especially if they did not get to see the tour for “The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” due to the pandemic. Adding in the quirk of onstage envelope song reveals, attendees got two experiences in one: A concert and true award show production.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @lexipgoldstein

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