Amon Tobin at Orpheum Theatre, 9/6/12

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Amon Tobin with Holy Other
Orpheum Theater, Minneapolis
Thursday, September 6, 2012

See Also:
Slideshow: Amon Tobin at Orpheum Theatre
Amon Tobin stays mum on ISAM 2.0

If you weren't at the Orpheum Theater on Thursday night to see Amon Tobin there isn't much else to say -- except that whatever you did, it was the wrong thing to have done. Tobin is taking last year's ISAM for another spin around the globe, a show he's dubbed ISAM 2.0. Same songs, new rules. In fact, large chunks of the rulebook may have been rewritten before our eyes Thursday night. Lately, "mind-blowing" gets bandied about with no real thought given to what it actually means, but it was really the only way to describe what took place on the Orpheum's stage.

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

The stage set -- which looked like a cross between a Rubik's Cube and a stretched-out, twisted Q*Bert pyramid -- suddenly lit up with superimposed, steampunk-esque gears that spun and ground against each other and slowly gave way to billowing plumes of smoke as "Journeyman" got the night rolling. The set progressed and the visual show continued with multi-colored cubes bursting and collapsing -- at times making it seem like the set itself was falling apart. A long shot of a spaceship making entry into an alien atmosphere, a broad theme of sorts began to emerge during "Goto 10": an alternate take on how man arrived here on Earth. But it wasn't quite that simple. During "Surge" this theme took on a broader scope, a different set of primitive-looking machinery appeared and coupled with the tightly wound, intricate-as-lace music brought on thoughts of Imperialism and man's inherent tendency to destroy what he is given (or has simply annexed as his own). It ultimately brought me to one final thought for the set's first half: Man can suffer from cancer, but man also is cancer.

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

The crowd was held in rapt attention at this point, staring in awe at what was unfolding in front of them. The set appearing as bricks collapsing on themselves, morphing into firing anti-aircraft guns, into stars, into apocalyptic fireballs. Purveyors of this brand of glitchy, squiggly, precise ambient noise (a huge departure on ISAM, it should be noted for Tobin, who has traditionally traded in jazz-tinged drum and bass) should take note: this was how to make this type of music interesting from start to finish in a live setting. So many electronic artists fall flat live, but Tobin could have presented the visuals to the tune of an Emergency Broadcast System test pattern and nobody would have minded. "Kitty Cat" and "Bedtime Stories" lurched by and it wound down beginning with "Dropped From the Sky"; the building and destroying continuing around Tobin, on the set in which he was inserted in a large Plexiglas cube, dressed in an astronaut suit.

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

The wall faded to white and Tobin came out from behind the massive set to a roaring standing ovation. He smiled, bowed and quickly ran back into his pod for the first (and too-long) of two encores. The encores, which were indeed fun to a degree, seemed to diminish the power and overall idea of ISAM in general, however. To be sure, people finally stood up and danced a bit, but it inexplicably made the set just a tinge less exciting--like we had been brought back to the real world without being allowed to process the previous hour of fantastic lunacy. But as the stage set did a slow burn from the bottom during the last song before the set faded to white for good, another message rang loud and clear: burning down isn't necessarily an end, just a different means to start over. And while that message will play itself out in a different city on Friday night, those who saw it Thursday should take all of it and make something, anything better.

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Critic's Bias: Nothing makes me happier than being in the presence of people who can execute large-scale ideas in a manner that makes it look effortless.

The Crowd: From all walks of life and exceedingly polite. Cheered and applauded when appropriate and the near three-minute standing ovation was nothing short of astounding, though it was well-deserved.

Random Tidbit: The Orpheum's refreshment area is stellar. From the locally-made B.T. McElrath chocolate bars, the Dunn Bros. coffee (also local) to the array of top-shelf liquor, other theaters in town should take note of what they've put together.

Notebook Dump: Remember when we thought fiber optics were cool? They're now as ancient as the pyramids.

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