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Review Thu Oct 22 2015

Youth Lagoon was the Phantom of Thalia Hall's Opera House

IMG_1419.JPGYouth Lagoon's Trevor Powers whirled around Thalia Hall's opera house as if he was possessed. Whenever his backing band would fall into a groove, Powers would run across the stage, scrambling to the front of the crowd, and even tossing a keyboard onto the ground.

As he conducted his band and conjured the audience, the performance felt more like an exorcism to let out his demons. The blue and pink lights blew across the fog onstage while Powers hammered out arpeggiated chords. In his childlike voice -- not unlike a male Kate Bush or Joanna Newsom -- he serenaded our ears off.

While he played the singles off of the recently released Savage Hills Ballroom, Youth Lagoon mixed in plenty of older songs. The group blended atmospheric tones before cathartically releasing into an instrumental breakdown or as Powers lilted out "ahs" and "ohs." He brought in favorites from his past records, including the poignant and wistful "July" off of his first record and the psychedelic "Dropla" off of Wondrous Bughouse.

But Powers didn't belt out the lyrics to "July" enough. Instead, listeners pulled out their smart phones and moved along to the chugging rhythm section. His studio version can break down a person into tears when he sings "If I'd never let go / Then only god knows where I would be know." When he ended the song, I was without a single tear on my face.

Youth Lagoon could have included their more off-kilter songs, like the whimsical "Attic Doctor," or songs that groove, like the chorus in "17." Considering how Youth Lagoon is a solo artist who works within the nuances that a studio can offer, it was curious to see how a full band behind him pounding along to his cathartic songs. But building up each song into a crescendo became formulaic and tiresome, even if executed well by masterful musicians.

Openers Moon King from Toronto fit the night's vibe well. Whereas Youth Lagoon may have taken his cues from the likes of Flaming Lips and MGMT, the dreamy Moon King fell out of a 1980's time capsule. The singer, who could not be seen without a smile, embodied the manic pixie dream boy stock character as he adorned a glittery hat and waltzed across the stage to lift up a mic stand.

But this seemed like a night without risks for both bands. The drummer in Moon King played consistently and propelled the band ahead, but he offered no fills, syncopation, or any added flavor. They could have played without the second guitarist, and little would have changed. And while Youth Lagoon exuded the physical energy on stage, the raw emotion had often left more to be desired.

Nonetheless, the audience earned an encore by stomping, hollering, and clapping for minutes on end. Some people parted away from the crowd before Youth Lagoon stepped back on the stage. Maybe Powers still had spirits to summon.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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