Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Live Review: Santogold, Mates of State, Trouble Andrew

Note: I didn't happen to take the video, that honor belongs to YouTube user adventurefit. I'm sure he/she won't mind a few more views, right?

I traveled down to Denver’s almost-intimate Gothic Theatre for a three-act show earlier this October: pseudo-rock group Trouble Andrew, indie rock duo Mates of State and then headliner Santogold.

While its structure and acoustics might not be much different from several other Denver venues (it has an odd similarly to The Ogden Theatre in that the standing room sections is divided into thirds while special VIP high rises line the walls), the Gothic generally showcases college radio acts and as such, typically draws a young and eccentric crowd. The sound carries well in the Gothic’s high hall, but to really watch the show is to stand in the front section. There, one’s ears can surf on the finest timbre while dancing with the crowd.

Opening act Trouble Andrew was undoubtedly the weakest act of the night, barely rousing the crowd members out of their stand still positions with their quirky downbeat skateboarder jams. Lead singer Trouble played up a strong stage presence, talking with the crowd and promoting the acts that were to follow. But it couldn’t excuse the fact that Trouble’s pitch couldn’t keep in tune with the backing guitar or bass melodies, and he constantly struggled with his intervals. I was particularly disappointed to listen to the offbeat live version of “Chase Money”, a song where Trouble’s uptempo delivery flows perfectly with the mellowed out melody. At the Gothic, however, he could barely keep up.

Following Trouble Andrew was Mates of State, a band I had only experienced a couple of times prior to the show, never really forming much of an impression. They did a decent live show, the two never moving from behind their microphones and Casio keyboards. Harmony is an essential in the music of Mates of State, who put forth forward energy throughout their set, their songs often lapsing into one another. Their set, which kept a fluffy up-tempo dissonance, was a stark contrast to the previous moodiness, throttling me into a bubblier attitude. By the end of this set, I was dancing along with the erratic nigh-nonmetric fills.

In the moments before Santogold took the stage, two schoolgirl uniformed dancers wearing oversized sunglasses high-kneed their way on, exciting the crowd with a minute-long synchronized stiff dance. They’d flank Santogold for the rest of the night, purveyors of minimalism in a setting that flickered between drone dub and jungle dance beats.

Santogold’s standout performance was “LES Artistes”, a fan-favorite track that builds off a mixed meter electro-percussion beat, eventually blooming into an orchestral synth chorus. Santogold nailed her vocal accentuations, allowing me a newer pleasant access to the hope-under-stress emotions I was filled with during my first listen earlier this year.

The only disappointment of the show was a decision to perform a bare-bones version of “Lights Out”; Santogold turned a song that has pretty pop chorus and succinct guitar riff into an acoustic solo vocal performance of the opening verse, and then promptly transitioning into the next song’s melody. When an artist performs a stripped-down version of their song, he/she owes it to their fans to make sure it sounds good without a backing beat and the other six-sevenths of the song.

She closed out the set (excluding her unspectacular encore) with jungle blaster “Creator”, inviting up some colorful characters from the very front up on stage to dance along with her. Santogold navigated through the crowded stage fairly easily, dropping each verse with a smile on her face and an occasional laugh at one goofy guy she stared down during delivering the final zipping verse.

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