Thursday, June 10, 2010

Live Review: mewithoutYou/Rocky Votolato/Rubik

The Avalon, Salt Lake City
June 5th, 2010

I arrived probably earlier than was necessary at The Avalon to get a close seat for the show, but I had a feeling it would be worth it to see openers Rubik live. Granted, I had no real reason to expect they would be fantastic--I was just betting that was the case. And you know what? I wasn't disappointed in the least. Rubik hail from Finland and definitely had a very distinct sense of fashion and presentation, but there was absolutely no barrier between them and a largely uninitiated crowd when it came to the music. From the moment they began--with an ethereal introduction showcasing frontman Artturi Taira's vocals--everyone in the room seemed instantly drawn to these unusual pop performers. The band's intense energy and their obvious love for making music was infectious, to say the least, and each song drew a more enthusiastic response than the one that preceded it.

Taira led the bunch with some absolutely stellar singing and frenzied dance moves, but everyone on stage seemed to be having the time of their lives, shouting, running, and feverishly pounding their instruments. I counted at least four keyboards, plenty of drums, two trombones, and more that the band used to replicate personal favorites like "Karhu Junassa" and "Goji Berries" with the kind of emotion that can only exist in a live performance. And after a wonderful alternate version of "Wasteland," they exited the stage far sooner than any of us would have preferred to a standing ovation which was received with sincere gratitude. In fact, when Taira came back to take his mic and keyboards down, it drew another enthusiastic cheer. I've rarely seen an opening band win over a crowd with this same sort of impact, it was nothing short of spectacular. (MySpace) (Free EP Available Here)

Rocky Votolato
Rocky Votolato didn't have nearly as much to prove as Rubik certainly must have, but he still gave a remarkable and memorable performance. Being relatively well-versed in his music, it was nice to hear Votolato play music from most of his records, opening even with "Alabaster," one of the best from his breakout album, Suicide Medicine. It was also refreshing to see a musician perform with absolutely no need for a backing band--it was just him, his guitar, and a couple harmonicas. The performance's starkness contrasted sharply with both the other bands playing that evening, but not only was it a nice reprieve from the noise, it was just as captivating. His clear voice was every bit as effective on stage as it is on his recordings, and his simple instrumentation was the compliment to his world-weary tunes.

He played nearly all of my favorites, which was nice, but I felt that the material from his new record, True Devotion, was the most emotionally powerful despite the fact that I don't think the album is one of his best. "Sun Devil" especially was hypnotic, and even the high ceilings of the room couldn't distract from what was a compellingly intimate and touching performance. Of course, career highlights "White Daisy Passing," "Suicide Medicine," and "Portland is Leaving" were the best received as they were the most familiar, but no matter your previous experience with Rocky Votolato's music, his heartfelt, dynamic performance was impossible to deny that night. (MySpace)

I have less to say about mewithoutYou, but not because their performance wasn't great. In fact, they played a lengthy and consistently energetic set that kept about everyone in the audience with their eyes glued to the stage as frontman Aaron Weiss bounded about, twirling and yelling at times and then retreating to the background when the tempo died down. I've never been the band's biggest fan, but I found their show a fun, engaging experience. And, without a doubt, the highlight of the evening was mewithoutYou's encore, during which they played some of their most popular and exciting tunes and even were gracious enough to finish the final song after 20 or so people climbed on stage to provide the band with unexpected backup chanting and dance accompaniment. (MySpace)

It was the perfect ending to a long and consistently fantastic show. If anyone left unsatisfied that night, they had only themselves to blame.


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