X Ambassadors at Hawthorne Theater

A blistering hot 90-degree day in Portland did not deter X Ambassador fans from the sold out all ages show at the Hawthorne Theater without air conditioning. They did push more towards fans blowing at edges of the room than the front of the stage. At least until headliner X Ambassadors took the stage. All bets were off then.

Alternating between slower tracks such as “Your Town” and the heart racing “Adrenaline” the sweaty high-spirited crowd cheered and sang along. It was a bit too packed to dance, but many tried while others contented themselves to swaying in time. A couple next to me tearfully mouthed the words to “Unsteady” while holding deep enough eye contact to grant them a little extra space in an otherwise packed room.

“Unsteady” was remixed for the 2015 romantic movie Me Before You. It may be one of their more recognizable tracks, but bangers like “Hey Child” and “Renegades” really highlighted their ability to work an audience. X Ambassadors stage presence and musical talents were beautifully showcased throughout their 90+minute set.

Adorably the lead singer shared the story behind their new song “Start A Band” as if it was a not a common conversation among young adults in Portland but it was relatable to 95% of the audience. The remaining 5% being those who put up band members on their couch without needing reciprocation.

As someone who is generally averse to pop music I really like X Ambassadors new album Townie. The catchy tracks on won me over with their artful storytelling and euphoric layering of sounds. Hearing them live did not disappoint. All the songs performed became a super charged version of the recorded ones. Particularly “Follow The Sound Of My Voice”.

It was written by lead vocalist Sam Harris about his brother and X Ambassadors keyboardist Casey Harris’ blindness. The family’s experience and stoicism in the face of society’s treatment of disabilities felt tangible. That ability to transport you to another place and make a foreign experience suddenly relatable is the most magical ability a performer can possess. It is that trait we always hope to experience at a live show.

X Ambassadors delivered. Even if I had missed the aurora that night, I would have felt it was worth it. However, I arrived home just in time to look up and see a mauve colored cloud across the night sky. When a band of green streaked below that cloud it registered in that moment, I was seeing the Northern lights. While a rare solar storm caused it, somehow it seemed perfectly right to end my evening that way. Each time I place Townie on my record player now (it is great on vinyl by the way) I will think of their live show and the Northern lights.

Northern lights seen in Oregon. Starry sky with a mauve colored cloud and neon green lights below it. At the very bottom is a narrow band of city lights in the distance.
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

X Ambassadors are still on tour! Find more info at: https://xambassadors.com/tour

The new Townie album is available on all streaming platforms, local records shops (including Portland’s own Music Millennium), and https://shop.xambassadors.com

Hawthorne Theater staff breaking down the set. Townie vinyl record leans against the stage railing
Hawthorne Theater staff breaking down the X Ambassadors set. Townie on vinyl leaned against the stage railing.