Last Night: Mutemath at House of Blues

Let's get something straight right off the bat: Mutemath is not a Christian band. Sure, the band members are all lifelong Christians, but the New Orleans-based act sued their label, Warner Music Group, in 2006 for breach of contract and negligent representation when their debut EP Reset was released by Warner's Christian-rock outlet Word Records. While the band may chafe at the constricting "Christian Contemporary" tag, its wild and sweaty show Thursday night at the House of Blues almost immediately took on the fervor and zeal of an old-time Southern revival.

As soon as Mutemath appeared in the audience, banging bass drums and crashing cymbals as they marched toward the stage to begin their set, it was clear that the band planned to put on a show to remember. Thursday night was the first date of the group's new tour in support of its 2011 album, Odd Soul.

Anchored by the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas and drummer Darren King, the band kicked things off with that album's title track, a gospel-inflected stomper that seemed to erase all memory of opening act Canon Blue. It was the first cut of what singer-organist Paul Meany promised would be the entirety of Odd Soul, and if the crowd was disappointed by the ratio of new material to old, it didn't show.

It's easy to see why Warner thought Mutemath would be a good fit for its Christian imprint: A whole lot of soul has been put into these songs. It's not just the sound of Meany's church organ, either. King was a man in constant motion as he bashed away at his kit, laying down beats with an intensity only found in the best Charismatic church bands.

With Mitchell-Cárdenas locked deeply in the pocket, Meany and guitarist Todd Gummerman were free to layer shimmering squalls of sound on top of one another. Singing all the while, Meany switched from organ to keytar to sequencer, even breaking out a bizarre homemade instrument known as the Atari for "Reset" that seemed to cross a toy Paper Jamz guitar with a theremin.

These electronic squibbles immediately recalled Kid A-era Radiohead, but on lush pop songs such as "Control" and "Chaos," the group betrayed its debt to a fellow mainstream band with Christian roots: U2. The Irish quartet's flair for lighting and showmanship has clearly not been lost on Mutemath, either. The band was flanked by an inventive projection screen that displayed shifting 3D graphics, and at one point Meany surfed over the crowd on what appeared to be an air mattress covered in colored LEDs. While singing.

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith