Washed Out at First Avenue, 9/12/13
|Photo By Jack Nielsen|
First Avenue, Minneapolis
September 12, 2013
A troubling trend amongst many of the breakout stars of the modern chillwave scene is that the textured songs they meticulously crafted in their bedrooms ultimately fail to translate well to the stage, and their live shows fall flat simply because their delicate music wasn't created with the idea that they would ever be played in front of an audience. So whether it's a lone artist with a laptop, or a band hastily assembled to try and replicate these dreamy songs in a live setting, the performances typically lack passion, soul, and focus, leaving crowds wondering if they would have been better off just listening to the album -- or if in fact they just heard a straight run through of the record without any embellishments to make it actually feel and sound like a live experience.
Last night at First Avenue, Washed Out delivered a pristine, ethereal hour-long show that set a new standard for how chillwave shows should sound and look, as Ernest Greene and his talented four-piece backing band delivered a truly stunning show in their first Minneapolis live performance.
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The stage was decorated warmly with flowers, lights, and strings of simple but striking bird-like bits of paper that all created a elegant, inviting atmosphere before the band even played a note. And rather than come out and remain fixed behind a laptop or keyboards all night, Greene proved to be a personable, jubilant frontman, playing the role of a chillwave cheerleader trying to get the reticent Minneapolis crowd to lose their inhibitions and dance to the towering beats the band was generating.
In addition to Greene's acoustic guitar (which mostly got buried in the mix), the start of the show featured a stand-up bassist, who gave "It All Feels Right" and "Belong" a textured, resonant low end. Having a live drummer as part of the band also gave these electronic-driven songs a lively, vigorous rhythm which continually drove the songs forward, augmented by the layered tones of the electric guitarist and the keyboard work and backing vocals of Greene's wife, Blair, who rounded out the backing band.
But ultimately the success of the show depended on Greene himself, who injected plenty of his amiable personality into these buoyant, soaring numbers, giving them a welcome depth and potency that is only suggested in the studio versions. The well-paced set proved transfixing straight from the start, with the band drawing on material from throughout Washed Out's burgeoning career.
|Photo By Jack Nielsen|
In fact, Greene included as many songs from 2009's Life Of Leisure EP as he did from his recently-released new album, Paracosm, and played more tracks from his debut LP, Within And Without, than he did from his new record. But the mix of songs proved to be perfect, as both longtime fans and new listeners were treated to a hypnotic blend of captivating tracks that easily charmed the full house.
Before an entrancing version of "New Theory," Greene took a moment to thank the responsive crowd, "This is our first trip to Minneapolis. We're really excited to be here. I've got no idea why it's taken this long." And indeed, the level of anticipation inside the club was pretty high, with area music fans having fallen under the spell of Washed Out's albums for a while now, while patiently waiting for Greene to bring those songs to an area stage. And hopefully, this mesmerizing performance will be just the first of many shows he and his band play here.