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[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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November 13, 2006
Two years ago when The Rapture's Echoes tour stopped through Tucson, Arizona, the band played a fabulous show at Club Congress; this time around they blew into Phoenix for Pieces of the People We Love. Downtown Phoenix, the epicenter of one of North America's most sprawling cities, is dominated by the requisite skyscrapers, pro sports stadiums and multitude of sports bars. Buried in the imposing shadow of America West Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns, stands a little brick building fittingly called The Brickhouse Theatre. To label the building a theatre might be a stretch, but the joint does have a respectable stage and sound system, and comfortably holds a few hundred folks who, earlier this month, were thoroughly ready to rock.

While the Suns were losing to rivals the Dallas Mavericks, opening duo The Presets took the stage. Comprised of a live drummer (wearing the goofiest ball cap this side of 1980's Elton John) and a singer/keyboardist, the Sydney pair let the computer loops fly. The techno-flavored sound was at times playful, but tilted mostly towards drum and bass. The singing was more like a spoken word delivery with no real melody to be heard. As the set went on, they grew louder and more forceful, fueling themselves with the energy of the growing crowd. The bottom line is that they got the job done: at the end of the set, which took the better part of an hour, the audience was relaxed from grooving and juiced up for the Rapture.

The stage was set up perfectly for a band known for its live instrument skills: a large drum-kit, one guitar, one bass, a few keyboards and 3 microphones up front. It was austere, simply lit, nothing fancy. The Rapture strutted onto stage looking swanky in their pressed blue jeans, retro t-shirts and pearly white sneakers. Charismatic lead singer Luke Jenner was flanked by bassist/vocalist Matt Safer and sax/cowbell/keyboardist Gabriel Andruzzi, with drummer Vito Roccoforte perched behind. The two vocalists immediately stepped forward and began chanting the immediately recognizable refrain of "One two three four/ five six seven/ I'm floating in/ a constant heaven", from the track "Heaven." It was a highly energetic beginning to a show with increasingly higher peaks.

The evening's set list contained equitable representation from both albums, including their huge hit "House of Jealous Lovers." As one might imagine, the quartet compliment each other nicely on stage. Mop-topped Jenner uses his guitar like his vocals: mostly for punctuating rhythm and angular attacks. Loose-limbed Safer, whose bass is almost as big as he, is smooth-as-silk on the lines and a great second vocalist, a refreshing break from Jenner's high-pitched style. Tough-guy Roccoforte keeps the beats sturdy and relentless, and like the best live drummers plays like the ship is going down. Writhing Andruzzi is the wildcard, jumping from keys to cowbell to sax effortlessly. That sax is a thing to behold: with a patina like it's 50 years old, he plays it not so much as a solo instrument, but as a percussive, staccato tool that greatly enhances the groove. Notably absent were any slower paced songs from either of the band's two albums, and it was easy to understand why; with too much kinetic energy flying around, any effort to slow down The Rapture's party would be futile.

On record, The Rapture are experts in dance beats set to the spirit of rock & roll. On stage they become much more than the sum of their parts. Into the whirling blender this foursome throws funk, punk, house, jazz, disco, guitar rock, glam and whatever else seems to cross their collective radar. The end result is a seemingly constant barrage of percussive beats and vocal shrieks, over sinuous bass lines and electrifying fretwork. What makes it work so terrifically is a one-two punch of genuine musicianship and an infectious attitude that is always blatantly on display. There is not one bit of poseur vibe among this group; these guys are not only playing with their hearts, they're having an absurdly fun time as well, and the crowd happily obliges by moving, shaking, pumping, clapping, and hooting constantly.

The Rapture categorically achieve what we all want out of live rock show: a massive effort that propels the music and style of the group to another level. When it happens, it's magical. After an hour of sweating on stage, the band came back for three - yep three - encores. When the house lights finally came up, they stuck around to shake hands with the crowd and sign ticket stubs as they unplugged their equipment, a groovy act of humility, from a band that should be proud to be one of the best live acts on the indie circuit.

SEE ALSO: www.rapturemusic.com

--
Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other articles by Ari Shapiro.

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