Review: The Helio Sequence at the Bluebird Theater, with Menomena, 10/24/13

Review: The Helio Sequence at the Bluebird Theater, with Menomena, 10/24/13
Tom Murphy


When Brandon Summers pulled out his harmonica last night at the Bluebird, we all what was coming, "Harmonica Song," of course. Summers blew into his mouth harp like he was playing some kind of strange blues rock song, and he did so with so much momentum and energy that it didn't really fit neatly into any kind of rock subgenre. It was a bright spot in a set of entrancingly uplifting yet moody music.

See also: Interview: Brandon Summers of the Helio Sequence on the unlikely influence of Frank Sinatra on the band

After a long drive from Nebraska, Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel were in great spirits. It didn't seem like they were expecting such a warm and enthusiastic reception, but that's what they got, and the guys gave back with a great performance. The Helio Sequence's set last night drew mostly from the act's two most recent albums, 2008's Keep Your Eyes Ahead and 2012's Negotiations. Opening the set with "One More Time," from the latter album, the band paced itself well, striking a heightened pique of emotion and sound and then pulling back to near silence.

The expertly textured and sequenced "The Captive Mind" was reminiscent of '80s-era New Order and Talk Talk at the same time in the way it expressed a complex emotional state with utter clarity through its melody. "Hall of Mirrors," one of the outfit's finest songs, harkened to Kilimanjaro-period the Teardrop Explodes, with an elegant and compelling melody that had inventive shifts in tone that engendered a shift in mood from melancholic to hopeful with a subtle but powerful shift in key.

Review: The Helio Sequence at the Bluebird Theater, with Menomena, 10/24/13
Kat Jones

The set closed with "Hallelujah" to much rejoicing from the audience. That tune, especially live, proved a great example of a song that breaks outward and expands to linger at the end. Rather than devolving into abstraction off into the stratosphere, it engulfed you. After the end of the main set, the band didn't keep us waiting long for an encore, and came back for two more songs from Keep Your Eyes Ahead, "You Can Come To Me" and "Lately."

Keep reading for a review of Menomena's set, Setlists and Critic's Notebook

Menomena at The Bluebird Theater
Menomena at The Bluebird Theater
Kat Jones

Menomena opened the show, and most of the crowd were clearly fans of that band as well. The quartet often gets lumped in with "indie rock," but that vague term doesn't really suit these guys. There was a lot of jazz in this band's music, underpinning its ability to weave in elements in a balanced way.

The songs are made much more interesting thanks to how obviously rhythm-driven the band is; Danny Seim is a skilled drummer, and he drove the songs, while Justin Harris played strong, melodic bass lines, emphasizing the rhythms almost more than the melodies. It was also interesting to see the two navigate that territory with their two other bandmates in a way that made the music seem vivid and powerful.

Drawing upon each of its albums dating back to 2003's I Am The Fun Blame Monster!, these guys seemed to be having fun, and while they were very tight, they also cut loose a little. Seim was particularly expressive in his drumming for "Queen Black Acid," and that seemed to help propel the rest of the band into a heightened state. That song would have been the peak of this performance, except that the band saved Mines track "TAOS" for last, and everyone stretched out a bit for one of the band's most sonically daring songs.


The Helio Sequence

Bluebird Theater - 10/24/13

Denver, CO

01. One More Time

02. October

03. Downward Spiral

04. Can't Say No

05. The Captive Mind

06. Hall of Mirrors

07. Open Letter

08. When The Shadow Falls

09. Harmonica Song

10. December

11. Keep Your Eyes Ahead

12. Negotiations

13. Hallelujah


14. You Can Come To Me

15. Lately


Bluebird Theater - 10/24/13

Denver, CO

01. Ghostship

02. Capsule

03. Weird

04. Plumage

05. Five Little Rooms

06. E. Is Stable

07. Strongest Man in the World

08. Queen Black Acid

09. The Pelicans

10. Heavy Is As Heavy Does

11. Don't Mess With Latexas

12. TAOS


Personal Bias: I've been a fan of the Helio Sequence since Young Effectuals came out, but I hadn't seen the band since 2005 when it toured with Rogue Wave. I've been a fan of Menomena for quite some time, as well.

Random Detail: Brandon Summers played his SG for most, if not all, of the show.

By the Way: This show ended at 10:58 p.m., including the encore. That might be some kind of record for a show that didn't really start until after 8:30.

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Bluebird Theater

3317 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80218


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