Five for Fighting attracted a crowd diverse in ages and music tastes to Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night with its delicate and distinct soft-rock.
The group, made internationally famous for pop-station favorites like “Superman” and “100 Years,” is one of those bands whose popularity spans more than one decade, and whose concerts are truly a mix of, as lead singer John Ondrasik put it, “some old songs, some new ones, some ones you’ve never heard before.”
Five for Fighting kicked off the set with its 2006 hit “World,” followed by “Chances” and “The Riddle.” Ondrasik’s piano skills remain as sharp as ever, producing sweet, pure melodies.
As the show continued Ondrasik, began to tell short vignettes in between songs, contextualizing why, when and how each song was inspired, giving the show a more meaningful and emotional dimension. Famous for songs incorporating social commentary and activism, the band played “NYC Weather Report,” a song dedicated to New York City after 9/11.
Ondrasik joked that back in the day he was “like a rocker,” hoping to mimic bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and The Who. He said the song “Superman,” arguably the group’s biggest hit, took the band in a different direction.
“I had this song sitting around for a while, and the guy who was making ‘America Town’ with us said to me, ‘You really need to put that song on your record,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man, I’m kind of a rock guy.’ Every time we’d come back to this little song, I’m like, you know, maybe we should put this on the record. I’m glad I did. It’s called Superman.” Applause erupted for the 2001 Grammy-nominated track.
“Superman” seems to have pushed Ondrasik’s “rock-star” button because, after the song, he was considerably livelier, more interactive and more talkative. During “2 Frogs” Ondrasik mingled energetically with the crowd.
In the spirit of music paired with a social message, Ondrasik dedicated “Freedom Never Cries” to the military.
“I love the troops, I love the families, I love everything about them,” he said, explaining that traveling to do shows for the troops is very important to him. He added that he wished to dedicate the song “Purple Thumbs” to those Iraqis who voted in the country’s recent election.
The band finished with “Slice,” which was written in collaboration with famous composer Stephen Schwartz, and the timeless hit “100 years.”
The encore introduced a new sound with “Bella’s Birthday Cake,” from the group’s first album “Message for Albert,” featuring excellent solos from guitarist Gregory Suran, and “I Just Love You.”
Before leaving the stage entirely, the band sang a short a cappella piece called “Hope.” Ondrasik said, “I know for many folks it’s not been the easiest of years the last couple years.” Nearly 11 p.m., the tired crowd swayed during Ondrasik’s musical charge to maintain hope during hard times.