The 12th and final free Thursday at the Harbor concert of season was greeted by glorious weather at the Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf, which filled nearly to the brim with an all-ages audience Thursday night.
It was full, but not "Salt-N-Pepa full," as the new definition of a full house at the Harbor was established last Thursday.
The majority of attendees were young enough to scream for, and huddle close up to, emerging pop artists Matt Nathanson and Lights; beyond the cobblestone Prime Street in the second tier, a relatively elder crowd sat comfortably in and around the harbor's iconic Adirondack chairs.
In the spirit of nostalgia at the end of the season, it was nice to breathe in the scene and realize this is one of the best Buffalo has to offer.
With such happy days here again and optimism in the air on Buffalo's waterfront, could there possibly be anyone with any sense of the big picture who still wishes Buffalo Place held this affair at Lafayette Square?
Opening the series finale was local quartet Voices, which performed before an early-bird crowd that was modest in size for the setting but enough to pack the local clubs at which they're usually found. They weren't able to win too many over, though.
The audience stood mostly still as the quartet mixed tightly-wound original dance pop and drama rock with the on-edge vocals of a frontman who laid on the too-cool shtick a bit too thick.
In a night that offered ample lessons in nailing a classic cover, their take on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," which included a guest female vocalist alongside their male frontman, came off as more karaoke than cool rearrangement, affirmed by an unimpressed audience.
A sizable sampling of screams announced the arrival of synthpop star Valerie Anne Poxleitner of Toronto, aka Lights, who stood between two synthesizers for most of a near hourlong set that made a statement for the reemergence of the instrument.
Driven by a drummer, she and her other two backing bandmates were often an all-keyboard cavalry, bringing bone-shaking bass and pseudo-industrial breakdowns to songs including "Fourth Dimension," and following with the first of many singalongs in "Timing is Everything," both off of her second album, "Siberia?," released last year.
She soared to the heavens in the chorus of the driving "River," dialing back to a weary near-whisper as it closed.
In covering Blondie's "Heart of Glass," they showed how it's done. Lights nailed a tough vocal as the band hit hard, like they had something to prove.
Nathanson, a Massachusetts native, proved his affinity for covers all night, mixing many throughout a fun, talkative set, opening with one of many straight-ahead vehicles for his formidable voice in "To the Beat of Our Noisy Hearts," following by listing some of the other harbor headliners and saying it was an honor to be here among them.
After ditching his acoustic guitar and letting his backing trio fill the drum-driven, vocal bend-up of "Gone," he called out the Kardashians in "Mercy." He got the crowd to confidently hit the high notes of James' "Laid" with him, the first of many crowd-pleasing and crowd-involving covers.
Simply put, he owned the place.
"You guys know how to throw a Thursday night experience," he said late in the set.Indeed, we do.