Monday, October 17, 2011
Better Than: Staying home and bemoaning the weather.
Monday might be the last night anyone wants to get out and get down. So it's to the Rapture's credit that its show last night at Grand Central still reached critical dance velocity by the headliners' third number. The timing of the New York trio's return to recording and touring has been serendipitous.
With LCD Soundsystem recently departed, the void for a proper crowd-bridging dance band is wide, and the Rapture seems poised to fill it. Despite all of the 2006 jokes people might have made before the show, the band's material doesn't sound dated. Though the band may have gotten lumped by fans and press into a particular millennial musical movement, they were originators rather than imitators. Rather than sound like the '00s, the Rapture just sound like the Rapture, and the new and old material blended together last night into one nearly seamless mix.
Even the opening set by tourmates Poolside heated up over time despite a tepid start. The L.A. duo plays a very of-the-moment, chilled-out form of largely synth-based pop that fits its name, bubbling and aquatic-sounding. However, like many current acts of its ilk, that doesn't necessarily translate to a lively stage show.
The band is just one guy playing bass and singing, and one on synths/MacBook. And neither the tempo of the music nor the technology involved permit any real running around. Early songs ran together in a sort of New Wave-meets-New Age soul burble. But things notably perked up later on. As tempos raised, so did crowd interest, with old-school house keyboards and synthesized brass fulfilling the promise of the band's self-penned "daytime disco" tag -- sunny and finally danceable.
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With the evening's headliners, who took the stage at 10:30 p.m., the energy picked up quickly after an introductory, slightly stripped-down rendition of "In the Grace of Your Love." But from the high-necked guitar tinkling of "Never Gonna Die Again," things got funky. Low-end bass started and topped, loose snares and cowbells hissed and popped.
Though the name of the band itself -- the Rapture -- is tongue-in-cheek, the overall effect of the band's live show is in fact pretty ecstatic. Frontman Luke Jenner serves as something of a revival tent leader, with gospel-style whoops and the occasional physical frenzy -- spazzy, running-in-place dancing, or parting the seas of the crowd as he did during "Echoes."
The other star of the band is Gabriel Andruzzi, who not only played bass on the band's most recent album, but handles any number of instruments live. A good chunk of the time, that meant synths and assorted tabletop stuff. But at the best moments, he wielded various brass instruments and did a sexy sax man strut near the front of the stage.
In his interview with Crossfade before the show, skilled drummer Vito Roccoforte promised a performance structured like a DJ set, and that proved to be true. Space between songs went from minimal to nonexistent. And as arrangements got deeper and dubbier, even the lighting turned deep red and blue. The result was a carefully crafted series of peaks and valleys that never bored.
OK, so the "encore" was a formality. Whenever a band "leaves the stage" without having played its most recent big hit, we all collectively pretend to clap like they won't come out and play it. That happened, and about an hour after they had taken the stage, the Rapture finally got to playing "How Deep Is Your Love," the lead single from the band's latest album. Relatively long, full of squawking horns, slightly squawking vocals, but an infectious, crescendoing beat, this was the band at its best -- locked into a groove but just off-kilter enough to never let anyone get too comfortable.
Personal Bias: I've seen the Rapture play on multiple continents and it would take a lot for them to disappoint me. Who doesn't like cowbell?
The Crowd: Survivors of the mid-'00s Revolver/Poplife scene, chin-scratching scruffy-faced dudes outnumbering small knots of well-dressed females with impeccable lipstick, approximately one DSLR-wielder for every 20 regular attendees.
Random Detail: One girl managed to crowdsurf. But it wasn't really that kind of vibe.
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The Rapture's Setlist:
"In the Grace of Your Love"
"Never Gonna Die Again"
"Pieces of the People We Love"
"Gotta Get Myself Into it"
"Whoo! Alright! Yeah! Uh-huh!"
"House of Jealous Lovers"
"Come Back to Me"
"How Deep is Your Love"