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After rising from New York City street buskers to national club and festival giggers over the past nine years, sibling pop band AJR came to Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday practically screaming, "And now we are arena rockers!"

The band of brothers — Adam, Jack and Ryan Met — brought a large and impressive stage production with them to St. Paul, one loaded with clever visual stunts and a sprawling, kaleidoscope-like array of lighting. They also brought out an excited, youthful audience of more than 12,000 fans, a surprisingly high turnout for a cultishly loved act whose name still might get first mistaken for a discount airline.

There was one key missing ingredient in AJR's big coming out as an arena-rock act, though: the rock.

Of course, nobody expected these three ultra-straitlaced dudes — who sing about playing with toys ("Don't Throw Out My Legos") and have a song in a Wendy's commercial ("The Good Part") — to come out and crank it like Rage Against the Machine.

But between all their cuddly and cutesy songs and all the attention to staging and visual trickery, the "concert" seemed less like a rock show and more like a Disney Broadway staging — or even like a slightly more grown-up version of Nickelodeon's "Yo Gabba Gabba!" tour, which many of the attendees might've seen as toddlers 14 years ago.

The cartoony showmanship was apparent right away in the opening song, "The Maybe Man." About 10 stage crew members appeared at different spots of the big stage dressed like lead singer Jack Met, so it wasn't clear who the real Jack was at first. It helped that all the would-be Jacks' faces were shrouded by an Elmer Fudd-style, floppy-eared winter hat of the style that even most Minnesotans consider too goofy to wear, but the real Jack proceeded to wear it all night.

There were many more optical illusions like that army of Jacks to come. The real Jack performed as if falling through the sky in "Touchy Feely Fool." Then another fake version of Jack appeared as a shadow on the video backdrop to compete in a drum-off with him during "Bang!" No kidding, the prerecorded drum parts clearly topped Jack's live drumming.

There were a lot more prerecorded tracks used, too. In what are otherwise pretty simple, jangly, Ed Sheeran-on-Red-Bull pop songs, AJR heavily employed background vocals and other electronic enhancement alongside other instruments such as violin and trumpet — a mix that sometimes sounded overcomplicated and not well mixed at all.

Amid all the flash and showmanship, though, the Met boys stayed humble and sounded all aw-shucks between songs as they talked about playing to a full arena on tour.

"I truly don't know how this happened, how we got here," Jack Met told the crowd. "It's because of you."

Adam Met recounted their previous Twin Cities gigs at venues including the Garage in Burnsville and the Armory in Minneapolis. He forgot to mention them playing to a smaller crowd at the COVID-clouded Basilica Block Party in 2021, though.

One of the more straight-up emotional and touching moments of the show came when Ryan Met sang the three-part chronicle of a failed relationship, "Turning Out." That abruptly gave way to one of the goofiest parts of the 100-minute show, when Jack and the rest of the band appeared high up in the nosebleed seats with other band members to perform their viral hit "World's Smallest Violin" while seated between fans.

It seemed like every time AJR's performance started to gain a little unfettered concert mojo, the musical energy came to a halt for another gimmicky showman stunt.

The sharpest lull came when the brothers gave a loooong demonstration about how they produce music at home right after playing the night's most high-energy tune, the politely groovy rouser "Burn the House Down." How rocking was the rockiest song of the night? On a scale of 1 to 10, it was about a 311.

Compared with AJR's ultra-cheery vibe, opening act Dean Lewis came off like something of a party pooper.

The Australian pop strummer — a little more soulful and a lot more dramatic than AJR — played an inordinate number of heartache-y downers in his 10-song set. One was a genuine tearjerker that discernibly impacted the many early arrival fans, "How Do I Say Goodbye," written about his ailing father. "Half a Man" and a couple more edged on whiny, though, with his sometimes pitchy, crackly voice adding a wince factor.

Dean was quite a fun charmer between songs, though, and threw in covers of Taylor Swift's "Cruel Summer" and the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" to lighten the mood with big audience singalongs. He also mentioned he's going out on his own after the AJR tour — but he, too, forgot to mention the Basilica Block Party, which he's slated to hit Aug. 2.