As frontman Ruban Nielson plays a groovy intro for “Like Acid Rain” on his electric sitar, everyone gets a little more relaxed in the packed space. His soft, smooth voice sings and scats. The music stops, lights go out and crowd cheers hysterically.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra brought it all Wednesday night. Their new album, Multi-Love, is in itself enough to blow minds with rhythmic tunes and catchy, high-pitched vocal tracks. But the live show was a spectacle jazz gods and psychedelic rock jammers both would be in awe of.
While the night was still young, Jana Hunter and Nate Nelson of Lower Dens gave an echoing performance with electro-ballads, trance-inducing drum and beat bits and whimpering guitar solos. Dynamic tracks left the attentive crowd both speechless and motionless besides a slight nodding of the head. Nelson left the stage as Hunter ended on the a cappella “All the Best,” exposing her talent without the microphone effects and instrumentation to hide behind. The crowd was silently still, until the end of the spine-chilling song, cheering loudly and calling out at the end of the set.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra came out and it was suddenly impossible for the audience to remain frozen. The intense guitar progressions and solos and funky nature of the entire instrumental display kept everyone bopping, captivated. In “How Can U Luv Me,” just the third song of the set, drummer Riley Geare broke into a full-out solo, each rapid beat of the kit building like fireworks. The other band members just sat on stage in reverence.
The drums fed into a newer track, “Ur Life One Night,” with dystopian tones and a strobe light show courtesy of the band’s own sound and light guys. The show just kept getting more and more astonishing. Neilson’s R&B and psychedelic vocals were accompanied by heavy piano from Quincy Mcrary on the keyboard and Jake Portrait’s rhythmic backing on bass.
“So Good at Being in Trouble” was a little more toned down with a sugar jam groove with mystical piano tones. Neilson played another intricate guitar solo, sitting cross-legged on the ground. For “Stage or Screen,” he got a little restless and ditched his guitars for a carried microphone, dancing while hanging off pipes on the ceiling and holding the audience’s hands while standing on the railing and singing.
Mcrary started “Ffunny Ffrends” with an ever so jazzy intro, the other members again sitting and listening with wonder. The band can improvise and talent was abundant.
The synth opening for “Multi-Love” began and the audience commenced their screamed rendition of every lyric with Neilson’s electric sitar chords. They called for an encore and the band delivered one of the funkiest tunes of the night, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.” The wood block was going and the crowd was dancing into the end of a remarkable concert.
(All Photos: Kayla Williams)