The Larimer Lounge wore three sizes too small on Dragonette last night. The Canadian band, which stopped at the Larimer Lounge for their first Denver show three years ago, put on a show that rock n' rolled too hard for the constraints of the venue this time around: That's why it was so intimate, so good.
Martina Sorbara, the singer and tour-de-force of Dragonette, brought out all the stops during a nearly two-hour set. She sang -- boy, did she sing -- she danced, and her stage charisma, especially in such a small space, was electric. For songs like "Easy" and "Run, Run, Run," it felt like she was singing to you and only you. For others, especially "Live In This City," it was as if all 200-plus attendees were marching their way to dance-rock revolution and Sorbara was leading the charge.
Dragonette cut through all its staples, opening the show with "I Get Around," its debut single and perhaps most well-aged track. It sat fine in line with songs from the new album, Bodyparts -- which made up most of the setlist -- and set the bar high for the rest of the evening. Bar a few technical difficulties, during which Sorbara entertained the crowd with her everywoman banter, the band most certainly rose to the Mile High occasion.
The walls shook as Sorbara's husband Dan Kurtz, who tickled the keyboards for most of the evening but also threw in some heavy guitar at points, transformed "Riot," a new song, into a great moment in pop history -- fans jumped, the floor shook, and never was it more clear that Dragonette had outgrown the Larimer Lounge. The track would have been more aptly named "Earthquake." "My Work Is Done," another new one, led a similar charge as drummer Joel Stouffer shredded his drumheads.
Other songs morphed into behemoths live as well. "My Legs" stomped along, and even if fans didn't know the words at the song's beginning, because it's a new one (and deserves to be a single), they were certainly singing the lyrics by the end -- lyrics that were oh so fun to belt in the darkness of the Larimer Lounge: "I can't stop my legs, my legs go out late dancing/I try to wash my face, my lips they put on makeup/My bodies got itself all dressed up/I'll pay for it tomorrow when I wake up."
The show wasn't all electro-rock stompers, though. "Easy" and "Run, Run, Run" saw Sorbara really belt as more dedicated fans joined in on the former for background "oohs." Yet Sorbara's show-stopping vocals really came out in the form of an a capella rendition of "Cuckoo" -- her wonderfully airy vocal carried throughout the Larimer Lounge, perfectly juxtaposing the harder, full-on, riff-led sounds of the previous song, "Fire In Your New Shoes" (which saw Sorbara on electric guitar).
Continue reading for a setlist and Critic's Notebook.
Sorbara played off "Cuckoo" as if it were an unplanned treat for Denver fans as Kurtz and the stagehand tried to work through some technical difficulties -- which, unfortunately, marred what should have been a pulsing performance of "The Right Woman," instead falling considerably short. If Sorbara can pull those kind of vocals, deserving of a grand piano behind her, out of the drop of a hat like that, she is truly one of the most under-recognized vocalists in pop.
The most exciting performances of the evening were of "Let It Go" and "Hello," the latter of which, by Dragonette and Martin Solveig, saw the crowd explode into a roar of enthusiasm -- dancing, singing and arms in the air. Not content to leave it at that, though, Dragonette followed with "Fixin To Thrill" and the encore songs "Okay Dolore," a pleasant surprise, and "Our Summer," exiting the stage on a one-two-five punch that left everybody and their boyfriends out of breath from dancing so much.
Show opener The Knocks perfectly matched Dragonette in sound and performance. B-Roc and JPatt were a bit stiff onstage, but their set -- which included a 10-minute remix of songs by The Killers, Major Lazer and The Four Tops -- made sure everyone else wasn't. The night's dance party started here.
Dragonette with The Knocks Larimer Lounge - 9/21/12 Denver, CO
Dragonette: 01. "I Get Around" 02. "Riot" 03. "Live In This City" 04. "Black Limousine" 05. "The Right Woman" 06. "Pick Up The Phone" 07. "Fire In Your New Shoes" 08. "Cuckoo" 09. "My Legs" 10. "Easy" 11. "Run, Run, Run" 12. "My Work Is Done" 13. "Hello" 14. "Let It Go" 15. "Fixin To Thrill"
Encore: 16. "Okay Dolore" 17. "Our Summer"
The Knocks 01. "R.O.Y.L." 02. Remix Medley: "Funk Soul Brother" by Fatboy Slim / "All These Things I've Done" by The Killers / "Pon De Floor" by Major Lazer" / "Same Old Song" by The Four Tops 03. "Make It Better" 04. "Blackout" 05. "Dancing With The DJ" 06. "Brightside"
Personal Bias: When I interviewed Sorbara a month ago over Skype for a Backbeat Q&A ("Dragonette's Martina Sorbara on writing songs about cheating without actually cheating"), I told her after we wrapped that my birthday was the day after Dragonette's Denver show. When I met her (and Dan Kurtz) for the first time literally at the water cooler at Larimer Lounge, she remembered and wished me a happy birthday. Be still, my heart.
Random Detail: Dragonette didn't have any more copies of the new album for sale at the merch booth. They'd sold out at the previous tour stop and ordered more, but according to Brooke, the awesome merch woman, the cost of shipping to Denver was considerably more expensive than shipping to, say, the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, where Dragonette plays tonight.
By the Way: After the show, Sorbara came to the merch table to sign autographs and meet fans. Unlike other performers who might do the same per their management's suggestion, Sorbara genuinely seemed like she wanted to meet people and have a conversation with them. Too bad only a few people stuck around after the show to hang out.
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