OneRepublic Denver Acoustic Christmas at Ogden, with Big Head Todd, 12/21/12

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"The world could use a little more gospel music," declared OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder at the band's now-annual Denver Acoustic Christmas show. That quote pretty much summed up the message of hope and love for the evening. While everyone was already basking in the spirit of the season, the crowd at the Ogden received an unexpected gift: Although we were already expecting to hear music from Tedder and his friends, we had no idea that one of those friends would be John Oates, half of one of the coolest pop duos of all time and former owner of one of the best sweet, sweet 'staches ever to grace the cover of an album.

See also: - Slide show: Denver Acoustic Christmas - Ryan Tedder/OneRepublic set up victims' fund for Sandy Hook shooting tragedy - OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder enlists friends for inaugural holiday concert at the Ogden - 2012 Grammy Awards: Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic wins, 2/12/12

Oates, who now lives in Aspen and volunteered to take part in the show to help raise some skrilla for the cause, was only there for a quick three-song set, backed by headliners OneRepublic. But he kicked it old-school with "She's Gone," a bluesy rendition of "Man Eater" and dipped into gospel himself with "Children, Go Where I Send Thee." Sure, while it was cool seeing a legend like Oates command the stage, it was the combination of OneRepublic's cello and the smoothness of Oates voice that was the best surprise of the night.

But it was OneRepublic that people were clearly on hand to see. The act started its set with a gorgeous and traditional version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." People sang along, held hands and got all teared up, but were quickly yanked out of their Christmas comas when the band shot into "Secrets."

The lighting and the energy from the band shook the Ogden through every single one of its songs. OneRepublic understands that people love to sing along, so Tedder and company gave them plenty of chances to do just that as they scrolled through the hits -- "Good Life," Stop and Stare" "Christmas Without You," "All The Right Moves," and "Apologize." And they also performed "Not Over You" by Gavin Degraw because he donated $2000 to their website-charity raising money for the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Tedder also announced that their new album, Light, will be released in March of next year and performed a song called "I Lose Myself Tonight." The crowd didn't know the words, but quickly caught on and sang right along with the band without skipping a beat. The band ended the night by shooting fake snow out into the audience and offering up a pretty epic version of "Silent Night."

The Denver Acoustic Christmas show wasn't all about OneRepublic, of course. Big Head Todd and The Monsters played a solid, if low-key, acoustic set that included "Bittersweet" and "Please Don't Tell Her," along with a couple of new pieces, "Black Beehive" and "Travel On." We'd heard most of these songs a gazillion times, but here those tunes were given a slightly different treatment: the drums were played on a wooden box, which gave all the songs a new, rad and different flavor. Colorado music fans also always appreciate good harmonica action, and Todd Park Mohr gave it to us, as always.

Flobots brought the funk into the night. Their energy and stage presence always demands attention and their constant messages to "Rise" ensure that even some of the more "mature" audience members shook their money-makers. Because there was some bitch slapping school rivalry between Cherry Creek and Arapahoe High School caused by the comedian in the front of the theater earlier in the evening, Flobots took the stage by announcing the high schools they went to. (Yeah...this actually happened -- I guess at a sixteen plus show, high school is sort of right-there.)

But Flobots embraced the show and its causes, and announced that last night's event was meant to bring about change -- so they opened with "Stop The Apocalypse." The band's violist, Mackenzie Roberts, played absolutely beautifully which always adds a sweet edge to the band's in-your-face sound. They also played "Good Soldier," but because it's somewhat discordant to hear all about war when you're looking out into a crowd of stately ladies in their Santa sweaters, they performed "Handlebars," which, of course, sent everyone into a sing-along.

Speaking of Santa sweaters... Zach Heckendorf, who kicked off the show, was dressed to the nines in some sort of tinsel-laden Christmas sweater that blinded the audience every time his fingers strummed the guitar. The Cherry Creek high schoolers in the crowd went mad over his self-admitted cliché love song "Roses" and "All The Right Places." This kid has mad guitar skillz, and his Jason-Mraz-like style was the perfect open to a night of eclectic acts.


Personal Bias: I have a thing for rock stars who give to charity.

Random Detail: In spite of its billing, Denver Acoustic Christmas was largely not acoustic, nor was it uber-Christmassy, but screw it, it was all for charity. Speaking of charity, Zach Heckendorf donated all of the proceeds from his merchandise sales at the Ogden to charity.

By the Way: OneRepublic took a small enough break to auction off four VIP tickets to any Hall and Oates show (they are going back on tour next year) anywhere in the world - $3,000 was the final price, and all proceeds benefit Children's Hospital, Food Bank of the Rockies, Denver Santa Clause Shop and an Indiegogo campaign to help the victims of the Newtown shootings.

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