In order to make it in the music industry, you have to care. You have to care about the music you’re making and you have to care about the path you’re following. In order to make a lasting impact with your music, you have to connect. You have to connect with those listening and appreciate and foster the connections that you make.
Back in June, fresh off The People’s Tour with Quinn XCII and Julia Wolf, A R I Z O N A announced their Live For A Night Tour – their first headlining tour since the Find Someone Tour in May and June of 2019. They closed out a sold-out show at the House of Blues San Diego on October 27 with “Oceans Away” – originally released in 2016 in advance of their 2017 debut album GALLERY, it remains their most-streamed song on Spotify with nearly 229 million streams and counting. “We didn’t think we’d ever be doing this,” vocalist Zachary Charles said when introducing the song. “But this song connected to so many people, it taught us how powerful an experience like this could be.”
The night before, October 26, A R I Z O N A played The Wiltern in Los Angeles – a larger theater, with staggered levels of standing room on the main floor and a seated balcony above. On the back of the stage were two holographic panels angled above and below an LED board; lights were placed in rows on either side of the stage. The entire setup was designed by lighting designer Carlos Katsurayama and engineered by Charles in his shop; the LED board would flash with visuals to go along with each song. (The Wiltern, with its larger space compared to the House of Blues San Diego, proved to be a more impressive setting for the lighting setup and visual production, though the House of Blues unequivocally had better sound.) Charles, keyboard player David Labuguen, and guitarist Nathan Esquite entered the stage to a wash of purple light as a recording from philosopher Alan Watts played over the speakers, building a sense of peace and security as they opened their set with “Freaking Out.”
Previously played to close their set on the Find Someone Tour, in its new context as a set opener, the frenetic anxiety of “Freaking Out” became a chance for release. The songs from A R I Z O N A, the band’s recent self-titled album, also take on new levels of meaning in the context of the live show. The self-pitying, stuck-in-your head sorrow of “Graveyard” becomes a mournful, yet exuberant, celebration; “Black Boots”, in its wistful longing, beacons an inspiring sensuality. Leading up to the tour, A R I Z O N A had advertised the “Dark Skies Challenge”: fans could submit a video of themselves playing along to “Dark Skies” for a chance to join the band on stage playing their instrument of choice. In Los Angeles, they were joined by a fan on keys; in San Diego, a fan joined on drums as live drummer Zach Mullings switched to keys and Labuguen played bass.
With tracks spanning the band’s catalogue, A R I Z O N A’s setlist on the Live For A Night Tour (curated by Esquite) highlights each member’s talents: Esquite’s impressive guitar solo in “Summer Days”, Labuguen’s rumbling bass line in “Pray To God”, Charles’s tender, delicate-as-a-feather vocals in “Let Me Touch Your Fire.” A dynamic, charismatic frontman, Charles is infectious: down-to-earth with an energy that’s larger than life, he creates an atmosphere you’ll want to be a part of. A R I Z O N A are the band you didn’t know you needed, here to remind you there are better days ahead – and to make you feel alive tonight.
A R I Z O N A is a band that cares about what they’re doing and who they’re connecting with – but they’re not doing this alone. Their crew care about this, too: about the job they’re doing, about the band, about its members as individuals. In both Los Angeles and San Diego, members of A R I Z O N A’s touring crew could be seen in the wings of the stage and right up front, fully enjoying the moment as much as each face in the crowd. Before “Cross My Mind”, towards the end of the set, the band and crew took part in a toast on stage, a nightly tradition celebrating just how special it is to be on the road.
The Live For A Night Tour is not to be missed. The tour continues through November 14; head to A R I Z O N A’s website for a full list of remaining dates and to purchase tickets.
A R I Z O N A at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA, October 26, 2023
A R I Z O N A at House of Blues in San Diego, CA, October 27, 2023