Now into the latter part of the month of October, this fantastical season is starting to peak. All throughout the month there has been a steady build-up to the craziness that is October 31st, and this season has been giving special meaning to any sort of event that can play into the season's mood. Friday night was one of those events, a concert featuring music that was immeasurably enhanced by the time of the season, and the added combination of creative visuals, unique stage production, and an enthusiastic crowd made the overall experience unforgettable.
|Monika Heidemann of Xylos|
The night began with an opening set from New York indie synth-rock group Xylos. Xylos performed as a five-piece band; Monika Heidemann on lead vocals, Eric Zeiler on guitar/keyboard, Nikki Lancy on keyboard, Christopher Berry on drums, and Matt Aronoff on bass guitar. They created synth-based pop rock that had an electronic characteristic but felt and sounded more like an organic pop rock band. Their songs had a moody electro dance framework, but also had a retro '80s pop-rock texture to it. Monika Heidemann's alluring vocal delivery was a careful balance between pop and alt-rock, and when united with the dance-rock instrumental work it created an intriguing package.
They played a set of their own original songs, mostly from their newly released self-titled album Xylos. They seemed to incorporate the more danceable songs from their album and left out the ones that had a stronger, more prevalent rock influence, maintaining the strong pop danceability present on much of their album. My favorite songs from the performance were their more synth oriented songs - "Blind Eye" and especially "X-Ray". "Second Order" was interesting because it was performed without the acoustic guitar sound that is on their album, which made it much dancier. The live version of "Darling Dearest" was even more infectious than the album version, causing the song to linger in my head for days. Although there is a bit of mood to their songs, for the most part the band's music comes off more upbeat to me, and I think that fans of synth-pop would really enjoy Xylos.
After Xylos' opening set, the rest of the night's crowd filtered into the venue and began to patiently wait for the appearance of Trentemøller. There was a steady growth of excitement as Trentemøller's set time neared, and it seemed that most of the crowd knew something big was going to occur but not quite sure what it might be. For me, this would be my first live glimpse of Trentemøller. I'd heard the name before, but before I found out this show was coming to the Ogden Theater I'd only heard a few Trentemøller songs. When I saw the tour announcement this summer, I picked up both of Trentemøller's albums and immediately knew this was something I didn't want to miss.
Trentemøller's albums are epic musical works that showcase an impressive range of compositional skill. Anders Trentemøller knows how to take listeners on a comprehensive musical journey that will draw a variety of emotional responses. His albums The Last Resort and Into the Great Wide Yonder are not just collections of individual songs, but complete works that paint a big picture when listened to from start to finish. Because of that, I was curious how Trentemøller would perform his music in a live setting, and if it would be presented in the same epic fashion as the album experience.
When it was time for the music to begin, so did an entire visual production. The venue lights dimmed as something strange appeared on the foreground of the stage. A fence of what looked like rust-colored ticker tape rose from the floor, as each Trentemøller band member took their spots behind it, one by one. There was a slow ambient build up of music, and when all band members were in place, the ticker tape foreground gave the stage a twisted yet whimsical look, like the band was kept playfully in a Candy Land jail cell. The slightly obscured band members all began playing their respective instruments - guitar, bass, drums, and Anders Trentemøller behind synthesizers and effects controllers. They slowly built up the ambient music until it became compellingly recognizable as "The Mash and the Fury".
The performance of the opening song seemed to go by quickly but actually took about ten minutes. Within just that opening song, there were elements of ambient experimental electronica, progressive house, orchestra, and rock 'n' roll - instant exposure to the myriad of components that make up Trentemøller's intricate moody sound. With the attention of the audience fully in Trentemøller's grasp, the ticker tape wall sunk slowly back into the floor as both the band and another epic song were simultaneously revealed, where the driving beat and syncopated synths of the hypnotic song "Shades of Marble" began to play, drawing the crowd into a trance.
Every one of Trentemøller's performed songs flowed smoothly into the next, slowly and carefully manipulating the mood of the crowd. Trentemøller played off of the hypnotic mood and took the audience into the soulful downtempo song "... Even Though You're With Another Girl", complete with a powerfully soft female vocalist dressed as if she had been in a time capsule for a few hundred years. Each Trentemøller band member performed flawlessy, and brought to life each subtle grain of musical mood present in Trentemøller's recorded albums. Anders Trentemøller even showcased his own capacity for multi-instrumentalism, performing songs on the glockenspiel and xylophone, especially in a mesmerizing performance of "Miss You".
Trentemøller knew how to pace their songs perfectly to draw out specific moods at just the intended time. The effect was heightened by creative visual projections that were synchronized to certain songs. The projections would splash vivid dancing color onto the band members and projection screens that looked like sails lining the back of the stage. It was the perfect way to enhance atmosphere without using some of the more minimalist and ambient songs in Trentemøller's repertoire, thus allowing the band to maintain a heightened sense of energy while still being able to juxtapose moods. For instance, Trentemøller was able to transition from the crazy dark dance-funk song "Vamp" to the downtempo "Sycamore Feeling", guiding the listeners through the abrupt transition visually by going from black and white to color projections instead of relying on a transitional musical piece.
The live versions of every song Trentemøller performed differed from what is on Trentemøller's albums, usually resulting in extended song length. Somehow, Trentemøller managed to add a few extra minutes to most songs without changing the songs drastically or making the songs seem drawn out and repetitive. This was most apparent in the final song of Trentemøller's regular set, "Moan". An originally five minute song nearly doubled in length with the inclusion of an amazing introductory harmonica solo. The sound of the harmonica seemed to be routed through some sort of filter pedal, causing a unique nuanced sound that I can't really explain but do know that it was incredible to hear.
Trentemøller's set had taken the audience through a whole host of emotional responses, but there was still one more left that caused the crowd to immediately roar for an encore - unabated full-throttle let's-go-apeshit dance. When Trentemøller came back on stage to perform their encore, I could already feel in my bones what song it was going to be, and as soon as the drums started roaring, nobody in the venue could even think about standing still. Trentemøller performed "Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider Go!!!" for an encore song that nearly caused the ground to crumble from the pressure of dancing feet. It was as if Trentemøller slyly built everyone up for that final dance-rock crescendo, making for the most memorable encore performance I've experienced in recent memory.
Based on the merits of Trentemøller's music alone, I was completely floored by Friday night's experience. Trentemøller's band was able to recreate with live instrumentation the captivating complexity that is Anders Trentemøller's compositions. Then to make it even better, Trentemøller brought a creative stage display and impeccable stage presence to add extra luster to the show. All of that made the audience incredibly energetic throughout the whole night, making the experience seem like more than just a concert, but something on a higher level entirely - especially since the mood of the music played perfectly into the time of the season. I think any open-minded music fan can immediately appreciate what Trentemøller does, and I would frequent a Trentemøller show time and time again.
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