The guys in Rooney must have had guilty consciences while writing most the songs off their 2003 self-titled debut album. Titles like “I’m a Terrible Person” and proclamations like “sorry for making your life a living hell” lead us to believe that the five-piece crew wasn’t all that innocent. But all that bumming around never kept Rooney from playing hooky, danceable pop songs.
Today, they’re still feeding off the same energy. And the same songs. With a set list fueled mostly by hits from their first album (and a few others from 2007’s Calling the World and a new EP), last night’s crowd stepped back five years in time.
Lead vocalist Robert Schwartzman and guitarist Taylor Locke perfected the cocky mic stand straddle, ripping bombastic guitar trills that sounded a lot grimier than the candy-coated production heard on their albums. Fan favorites like “Daisy Duke” and “Sorry Sorry” had girls drunkenly flailing their arms in the air like dying seals trying to reach land. Shout-along choruses and a big, anthemic resonance rippled through the ballroom as Rooney embraced the joy of simplistic pop songs.
Yet if you looked a bit closer, red flags went up. Bassist Matthew Winter was already sleeping from the moment he stonily walked onstage. Schwartzman didn’t even pretend to put an ounce of effort into his performance. Locke was smiling at other members of the band, telling some kind of secrets that the audience wasn’t allowed to get. Hell, half the band could have been playing from sidestage, and nobody would have noticed.
You could say that the structure of a Rooney song is comparable to going through the motions. Short verse, repetitive chorus, guitar solo, repetitive chorus. But at least the songs have some heart. And last night, that’s exactly what Rooney was missing.