Like every band, Cincinnati’s Walk the Moon hit a point where they wanted to mature. In this group’s case, maturation meant ditching the (fun, albeit juvenile) face-painting shtick that defined their early live shows. (Which, naturally, doesn’t discourage some fans from still sporting a neon-splattered face or two.) Musically, too, Walk the Moon — the four-piece of Nicholas Petricca (lead vocals, keys/synths), Kevin Ray (bass), Eli Maiman (guitar), and Sean Waugaman (drums) — have taken strides in diversity with their second major-label full-length, Talking Is Hard, which builds upon Walk the Moon’s knack for hooky dance-rock by incorporating heavy Eighties influences.
At New York’s Terminal 5, Walk the Moon put their progress on display with a polished and highly energetic sold-out show. The band catered to the young-skewing audience — their biggest fan, it turns out, is an adorable five-year-old girl who shouted every lyric through the entire set — by kicking off with The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” before diving right in to “Different Colors,” an infectious, ooh-ooh-ooh swaying pop song that secured the evening’s tone.
The set touched on songs from the new record — such as “Down in the Dumps,” which has traces of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”; the body-moving “Avalanche”; and “Work This Body,” a tune that hopped on the Vampire Weekend revival train a few years too late — as well as cuts from Walk the Moon’s self-titled 2012 outing, such as the Talking Heads–esque “Tightrope”; “Shiver Shiver,” a groovy dance track that found Petricca doing his best Prince vocals; and the inexplicably popular “Jenny,” which, while a little sultry and catchy, fails with a chorus that proclaims, “Jenny’s got a body just like an hourglass.”
Songs like “Spend Your $$$” and the effects-heavy shredder “Up 2 U” made for some of the set’s best moments and proved what Walk the Moon are capable of on the rock front. The group’s truest talent, though, is in the art of the hook, most evident on Talking Is Hard‘s breakout single, “Shut Up and Dance,” as well as the inescapable song that got Walk the Moon their start: “Anna Sun,” the encore’s end that fans pleaded for the entire night.
Save for a mediocre cover of the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” (come on, guys, try and make it your own a little!), Walk the Moon showed no signs of slowing down on their quest toward serious musicianship-hood. As Petricca mentioned, they’ve come a long way from playing the Rock Shops and Pianos of the city, and Terminal 5 was no doubt a new highlight. Amazing what can happen once the neon paint has washed off.