For months Chicago indie pop fans have been anticipating the arrival of fun.—the band that is—who played a colorful, energetic set to a sold-out crowd at Schubas last Thursday night. Apparently the show had sold-out in a mere five days, a month prior to fun.’s debut release Aim and Ignite. The evening started strong with Phoenix-based openers Miniature Tigers, but one could tell the audience was holding back for the main event.
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After stepping inside Toronto’s Opera House to a mere scattering of people standing around, I had my doubts if the venue would succeed in reaching capacity. After all, it was a Sunday night and does anyone really put in a solid evening of drinking and partying when they have to get up for work the next morning? The crowd both reflected the twenty-plus years of musical solidarity amongst all the artists on the bill, while asserting the nature of those who refuse to get old. The number of new fans probably equalled the number of followers who were alive when this music first made its mark.
Creating a live performance full of win, French-Finnish duo The Dø could have easily entertained an audience of thousands. Olivia Merilahti was electricity personified. Flipping her long lustrous hair, coming up to the tip on the stage and leaning into the audience were two of her frequent rock moves. Dan Levy chose to engage the audience with his sudden floor kneeling. But despite the sense of developed chemistry between he and Merilahti, it was she who truly stole the show.
It’s both an interesting and unusual combination for a band to be part French and part Finnish, though it worked for folk band Mi and L’au. The Dø have a much different performing ethos than that duo, however, with a live sound deeply rooted in pop and rock. In concert Merilahti’s lyrical delivery came off similar to the album, for the most part, but with an emphasis on the faster-paced songs overall. She could easily play to the most enticing melodies and riffs while keeping her lyrics perfectly on target. The presence of a live drummer maintaining a fantastic sense of timing throughout also helped.
On their 2008 album, A Mouthful, a visceral shift in moods occurs over its 15 songs—even among the singles. While songs like “Tammie” and “Aha” have an energetic drive to them, “On My Shoulders” is as melancholic as it is beautiful. “Song For Lovers,” “Searching Gold,” and “When Was I Last Home” are simply sentimental songs rather than dance tracks. Making the album increasingly diverse, it ends on a very raw and turbulent note with “In My Box,” which serves as a stark contrast between both the more stripped down intimate songs and those that feel like instant pop hits.
The Dø’s nearly hour-long set began like their album does with the aptly named “Playground Hustle.” Some of the samples in that song, as well as “Queen Dot Kong,” seem reminiscent of those used by Solex from The Netherlands and certainly add to the flirty appeal of both tracks. In contrast, “At Last!” was full of vivid longing, especially the way Merilahti tends to emphasize her words.
By the third song the band abandoned the album order, switching to “The Bridge is Broken” which came off as an edgy lament. “On My Shoulders” had a similar tone as Merilahti repeatedly asked, “Why would I carry such a weight on my shoulders? Why do I always help you carry your boulders?” It’s impossible not to hear her cry without sympathizing. Her accent, and the way she stretches out certain syllables over others, tends to make her sound even more tortured and anguished.
Perhaps the best song of the night was the one not sung in English: “Unissasi Laulelet.” It contained guitar parts memorable enough to match Merilahti’s wondrous vocals. It’s undeniable how well the band kept up their presence and energy throughout the set no matter what they were playing—a night that, at times, felt as rough as it did playful. Dangerous mood swings would be more common at The Dø’s shows if they just weren’t so satisfying to relish in every minute.
Bebel Gilberto, the daughter of bossa nova, literally (her father is João Gilberto,) performed an intimate and kittenish early set at The Box to celebrate the release of her tenth studio album, All in One. While much of the setlist dutifully revolved around the new material (“Bim Bom,” “Cancao de Amor,” and “The Real Thing”) Gilberto indulged fans with hits from Tanto Tempo, like “So Nice” and “Samba de Bencao.” It was, after all, an evening “only for the really close ones” as Bebel put it. In between doting on her fans and praising her four-piece backing band Gilberto relished the role of sultry siren, inspired, no doubt, by the venue’s alternate use as a burlesque club. As the double entendres multiplied, Gilberto had the crowd in the palm of her hand by the time she sang her new single, “Chica Chica Boom Chic.” Despite her flirtatious tone Gilberto’s voice was calm, controlled, and plush, epitomizing the very delicate yet relaxed precision of bossa nova itself.
French alt rockers Phoenix played an excellent set in Central Park on Friday night. The sold out crowd enjoyed Passion Pit, but went bonkers for Phoenix, though perhaps the high school kids were just drunker for the second act. Either way, Phoenix brought gobs of energy, with some interesting twists on their familiar material, and enough of a light/smoke show to entertain the (tone) deaf. Despite touring so much, the band seemed to have fun too, with Thomas Mars climbing speakers and lunging deep into the crowd. I highly recommend seeing them live.