Purity Ring at First Avenue, 5/2/13
Purity Ring with Blue Hawaii
First Avenue, Minneapolis
May 2, 2013
Purity Ring is all about atmosphere. Whether it's onstage or on their insanely popular debut album, Shrines, the Edmonton-based band paints a picture that sticks in your brain long after you're done listening.
Much like Purity Ring's last show in the Twin Cities, their set began with Megan James and Corin Roddick emerging onto the smoke-filled stage, beneath a slew of lanterns hanging over their heads. Bathed in the soft, glowing cocoon-light, the synth-laden dream-pop duo launched right into "Amenamy" without a word and didn't look back. In fact, neither musician spoke until the after the eighth song, but the crowd didn't seem to mind, so entranced they were by Purity Ring's performance.
Throughout the evening, James floated around the stage, looking like something between an ethereal, other-worldly fairy tale character and a girl in her Sunday best. She used her white, collared dress to the fullest during "Belispeak," mounting a riser on the stage and standing high above the audience, urgently crushing and pulling at her gown during the body-centric song. Rumor has it James designs the group's outfits for live shows, and her sartorial eye definitely lends an interesting visual aspect to Purity Ring's performance.
Roddick's prowess as an electronic musician stood out, even from behind his bizarrely-constructed effects setup. The tree-like table was topped with papery orbs that lit up in time with the music when tapped and tweaked. Doing more than just playing along to a track, it was evident that Roddick produced numerous effects throughout the show with glitches and distortions that fleshed out the duo's already rich sound on their album to fill the club with a heavier, dubby feel.
Unfortunately, the crystalline purity in James' voice on the record was absent last night. Bleeding into the heavy synth and bass, her words got lost in the foggy haze over the stage. Despite having issues deciphering the lyrics, her voice rang throughout the mainroom, perhaps even more haunting because of the distorted vocals. James, ever the minimalist on the chatter between songs, opened up after "Obedear," revealing that the band has graced Minneapolis with four performances. All of them have been at First Avenue. "This place rules," she gushed.
The band played all their hits, though one of the night's most popular songs was the recent cover of Soulja Boy's "Grammy." It's not hard to see why the song, released this February, crashed their site multiple times from numerous downloads. "Okay, so this part is when you can get crazy," James quipped before launching into a gorgeously frenetic version of "Ungirthed." The crowd took her words to heart, and the energy created from "Grammy" carried through the rest of the concert. Granted, that was only another couple songs.
In the end, the night was short and sweet with Purity Ring's set clocking in under an hour. Straddling the line between dance and pop, the duo worked the crowd with more stage-presence and prowess than their last show in the fall - probably gaining expertise from their heavy tour schedule.
Personal Bias: Having not seen or listened to much Purity Ring, I couldn't help but feel the songs bleeding into one another a little bit.
The Crowd: A mix of twenty-somethings and a few thirty-somethings packed together. Against the heavy bass during "Belispeak," what seemed like half the crowd was awash in light, but not from the stage. Smart phone cameras were in abundance throughout First Avenue, popping up above the sea of bobbing heads to catch a perfectly lit photo James and Roddick.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I know how to make spring rolls!"
Random Notebook Dump #1: I think all of my inner organs were jostled out of place by the bass from Blue Hawaii's rave-flavored set.
Random Notebook Dump #2: Was anyone else distracted by that pink, light-up flower waving all around on the main floor?