Check our this slide show from the concert.
Less than half an hour after the doors opened, and no more than ten minutes after I arrived, Nathan and Stephen, all nine of them, took the stage. At first things seemed a little off – in particular, the drums seemed slightly out of sync. Everything got smoothed out a few songs into it, or the mood took over and a few mistimed notes didn’t matter. Nathan and Stephen have a real talent for tapping into that primal joy audiences crave and once the mood catches, it’s hard to be resist or remain critical. Everything is simply subsumed into a raucous tide of joyous song, and that’s what happened here. They played a nice mix of material from their EP and newer, unreleased songs. I’ve heard them play some of this material before and each time they play it I like it more and more, whether from increasing familiarity or from the fact that they are continuing to fine tune it. It’s shaping up nicely.
Panther followed and quickly broke the mood Nathan and Stephen had set. Two guys: One on kit drums and some electronics, one with a huge floor tom, a microphone and spastic dancing. Generously speaking it was boldly experimental crypto-pop performance-art. Strip away the kindness and the pretense and it was just awkward, self-indulgent, atonal meandering by two guys trying way too hard to be clever. It worked — sort of — for one song, about two-thirds of the way through the set, that used some interesting dance music dynamics and sounds. Overall it ranged between perplexing and excruciating. Let’s split the difference and call it interesting, if a little annoying.
Architecture in Helsinki’s set steered things back to the world of actual songs and fun. Six musicians switched back and forth between a variety of guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, percussion, horns and microphones, playing a variety of songs pulled mostly off the new album Places Like This and the previous release, In Case We Die. And like the albums, the best material all but exploded in a shower of pop hooks and exuberance, while the weaker material was simply pleasant, if disposable. Caroming through new wave, show tunes and bubblegum pop with gleeful abandon, it was a perma-grinning, hands-waving, jump-in-the-air good time. It might not be profound, but it was high-energy, happy and it kept the audience shaking their collective ass; what more could you ask for? -- Cory Casciato
Critics Notebook: Personal Bias: Architecture in Helsinki’s In Case We Die was in heavy rotation at my house the year it came out. Random Detail: Despite the good vibes of the show, some inebriated fuck decided to take me out while I was shooting some pictures. He tried to knock me down three times before security escorted him out – on their first try, I might add. By the Way: Did you get your special, limited edition Nathan and Stephen shirt? Not if you weren’t there, you didn’t!