FORT WORTH -- Fans of Vertical Horizon may not have gotten everything they wanted from the band's performance in the Fort Worth Symphony's Concerts in the Garden series in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Saturday night, but they sure received a complete effort from the four-piece ensemble.
The alt-rock band, known for a string of hits around the turn of the century, delivered a solid two-hour set that concentrated on favorites from 1999's Everything You Want and the band's most recent release, 2009's Burning the Days.
Front and center throughout was the band's composer, lead singer and guitarist (and only remaining original member), Matt Scannell. He was an exceptionally genial host, showering Fort Worth and the audience with compliments between interacting and leading singalongs with the faithful. Among the evening's highlights were, not surprisingly, The Lucky One and All Is Said and Done, a couple of the band's more proven numbers.
But another standout came without warning. A new track from an album in progress, I'm Still Here, featured some of the best aspects of band's established sound, which, if you are not familiar with it, is a bit like a harder-edged R.E.M.
The song was a guitar-driven rocker with same sort of catchiness as some of Vertical Horizon's hits. It was highly appealing on a first listen, which is rare among songs introduced in a live setting.
But, while Scannell, drummer Ron LaVella, bassist Jenn Fekete and guitarist Steve Fekete gave it their best shot, there were some parts missing in this concert.
The band was not backed by the symphony, which will not make its first appearance in the garden this summer until Sunday night.
The four players, without the help of the orchestra or some keyboards to provide fill, often sounded thin, especially compared with the wash of chords and harmonies that characterize their better recordings.
And though this relatively new lineup was tight instrumentally, it lacked the vocal heft the band offered in its early hits.
Also missing in action was an audience. A crowd of only 905, an especially modest figure for a Saturday night, meant the band was looking out at more empty tables than full ones.
It's to the musicians' credit that they did not let that affect their effort.
The light turnout was a shame not only because it was an enjoyable show but also because it may spell doom for bringing name acts to this summer series, where tribute bands draw larger crowds.
Maybe Vertical Horizon was not the best fit for an outdoor show like this. It's more of a listening band than the sort of party band that often goes over well under the summer stars.
So let's hope that some empty seats do not rob us of similar good shows in the future.
Maybe a band with just a slightly higher profile, or a slightly different style, would deliver the number of patrons Vertical Horizon deserved but did not realize.