Caribou, Jessy Lanza Fitzgerald's November 22, 2014
I want to begin this review by showing my respect and appreciation for the crowd that showed up to see Caribou and Jessy Lanza rock Fitzgerald's Saturday. Not only was this show sold out in advance, but the house was packed even though the night was filled with hours of gross rain and wind. I've been going to shows in Space City for years, and it's been a long time since I've experienced a gathering of music fans willingly standing in line in the rain just to attend a concert featuring electronic artists. Kudos, Houston.
And guess what? Your patience was rewarded by a stellar opening set from Jessy Lanza, followed by a glorious and stunning 90-minute performance by Caribou. You responded by dancing, grooving, bobbing your heads, and generally basking in the evening's mix of sumptuous bass, '70s prog/funk, and '80s electro-pop. A good time was truly had by everyone involved.
Lanza went on promptly at 9:15 p.m., pinned to the left side of the stage by all of Caribou's gear, yet happily ensconced by her array of synths, keyboards and samplers. With a set culled primarily from her 2013 Hyperdub record entitled Pull My Hair Back, syncopated breaks, bass kicks, and snare claps formed the foundation of her sound, while glistening synth chords and Lanza's airy, dreamy soprano floated above the fray. Pop elements meshed with dashes of '90s R&B and new-school minimalist techno to create bold sounds and big dance numbers, a worthy table-setting for what came next.
Striding out in all-white ensembles, Dan Snaith and the other three men of Caribou set to work crafting a sonic experience rich in dreamy textures, kinetic drive and funky energy. A variety of keyboards, synths, electronic drum pads dotted the stage, along with bass, guitar, and two drum sets. The 13-song set kicked off with "Our Love," the title track of Caribou's 2014 Merge release, and slowly made its way through the rest of that record while making room for standout tracks from 2010's lauded Swim.
The entire show had the feel of a continuous DJ mix, something Snaith excels in when creating in solo-artist mode; check out the BBC Essential Mix he released earlier this fall as a point of comparison. Baeleric pop flowed easily into Nordic techno before the combination was distilled through a rich filter of Yes-meets-Genesis prog, resulting in resplendent sonics and an entrancing atmosphere. Lush soundscapes were met by the deft application of dynamics, timbre and pacing to create a subtle balance of darkness and light -- never too down, never over-the-top, and plenty of room for dancing.
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Highlights of the set included an extended groove on "Mars," Lanza again gracing the stage to sing "Second Chance," "All I Ever Need" and "Your Love Will Set You Free," all from Our Love. The crowd also popped for the arrival of "Odessa" and "Sun" (from Swim), the latter of which served as the encore of the show -- a ten-minute soul/funk/noise odyssey that nearly turned Fitzgerald's into a rave.
So, on a night when I fully expected the terrible weather to keep the hipsters, musical intelligentsia, and professional appreciators away from this show, I was happy to be proven wrong. The crowd gleefully soaked up anything and everything Lanza and Caribou offered, and both acts showed their appreciation by responding with a fantastic evening of intelligent dance music. Rain and wind, be damned!
Personal Bias: The older I get, the more I listen to left-of-center electronic music that doesn't always translate well to a live set. Thankfully, I'd only heard amazing things about how Caribou makes his records come alive in band format.
The Crowd: Mostly twentysomethings, with a smattering of people 30 and above. Any and all talking that might have existed during Lanza's set disappeared when Caribou hit the stage and sent everyone a'dancing.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I keep looking for someone else here who saw Caribou play Warehouse Live in 2010 with Toro Y Moi opening. I know I'll find them." -- a guy in the balcony, talking to his friend
Overheard 2: "Bou! Bou! Bou! Bou!" -- Chanted by four bros on the main floor, right after the band finished its between-sets gear check
Random Notebook Dump: Nothing beats a band with great group chemistry that looks like it's having a really good time onstage together.
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