Bronze Radio Return faced that uphill battle at the Frequency this Sunday that all bands have to someday face: the Sunday night crowd. With the exception of a few loud members, the audience responded initially with awkward enjoyment. They were clearly receptive of the music, but something held them back.
Bronze Radio Return’s frontman Chris Henderson caught on to this pretty quickly, tossing quick asides to the audience in between songs. They’d cheer, but they were hesitant.
“I feel like there should be music between our songs,” Henderson laughed as the audience let out tame applause.
Whatever it was that was missing in those first few songs, Henderson and company soon found. It took a little bit of coaxing, but, like all well-traveled bands wheeling down the music’s tread-marked highways, Bronze Radio Return had a trump card.
Henderson took center stage and chugged out a few notes on his electric resonator. Those deeper bass notes outlined Bronze Radio Return’s latest single, the admittedly goofy but equally giddy “Light Me Up.” The chorus hit, and suddenly the crowd was a riot – a riot by Sunday night standards, but a riot nonetheless.
It loosened the crowd up, there was still another ace to be played hidden up Bronze Radio Return’s sleeve.
Back at the start of the night, opening act The Roosevelts also had a Sunday night crowd to conquer. Nashville-raised, they weren’t strangers to the CMT crowd – the network had run at least one of their singles over the airwaves. But The Roosevelts’ indie side seemed to have a more grounded personality about everything they did.
They were the type of guys to mix up some folk balladry with Lynyrd Skynyrd southern skronk; the type raised on 1990s radio with an ear for it. Sometimes it was more subtle; a few songs were comfortably snug between “Closing Time” and Garth Brooks. Other times, The Roosevelts hung it in your face. Case in point: a cover of “No Diggity” that deserved all of the laughs and head-scratching it earned.
The Roosevelts knew it, too; they were looking for a good laugh to come from a country rock Blackstreet cover. Their playful nature was their best charm, slyly segueing into Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” halfway through their show. “Just wondering if you were paying attention,” their singer laughed. “Figured there were some Ryan Adams fans out there.”
Bronze Radio Return took the stage soon after. I can’t help but feel like they may have played their hand a little early; kicking off with favorites like “Up, On & Over” and “Further On” meant that they couldn’t pull those tracks as bigger guns later when they finally cracked the Sunday audience.
But there was enough flare to wind up the audience’s fringes. There were cheers around, filling in the cracks between the cheerful folk pop that Henderson and company slung toward the audience, but it wasn’t until halfway through the show that Bronze Radio Return figured out how to turn the crowd.
Henderson signaled to the keyboards to play the trump card: Up, On & Over’s “Melting in My Icebox.” It was the song that won the crowd at Revelry two years earlier on their first stop to Madison, and it pulled the same miracle as before. With a singalong chorus and Henderson’s coaching, the crowd suddenly began eating out of Bronze Radio Return’s hands. E-Street chords buzzed in the background as Henderson and the audience traded off lyrics.
The rest of the night was a cool mix of folk-stomping tradition and sing-a-longs, throwing the crowd between excitement and eased enjoyment. Bronze Radio Return found fire in their more popular songs, singles like “Down There” ripping chants from the audience.
When it was time for the mandatory encore, Bronze Radio Return didn’t even leave the stage. “It’d be a mess,” Henderson laughed, pointing out how the stage exits were blocked by gear to the back and the crowd to the front. “Just pretend we’re walking off the stage now.”
The audience called for more, and Bronze Radio Return happily obliged.
“I was kind of hoping for a ‘one more song’ chant,” Henderson grinned before ripping into the encore set. The final song, “Shake! Shake! Shake!” spun the audience into half-hearted jumping and full-hearted singing; not quite a Saturday rager, but a full Sunday bash.
Bronze Radio Return eased the song into its coda, once again giving control to the crowd. “It’s only up to you,” the audience sang back at him as the music drifted into the background.
“That’s my favorite part,” Henderson said to the crowd. “Thank you.” The audience applauded, a full applause for a band that had won their Sunday hearts. Only when the lights flickered on, stock music filled the background, and the band began teardown, did the cheering finally stop.