Twin Shadow at Bluebird Theater, 9/7/12

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Before ending the set, after a show full of enthusiastic responses from his audience, George Lewis Jr. said, "Denver, you're amazing. Who was here last time we came?" A few people claimed to have been. He complimented the crowd on being honest because he had expected around a hundred to claim to have been there. He also said it was hardly anyone, though it was a good show, and told the crowd that coming back to a place the size of the Bluebird full of people was a nice surprise.

See also: George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow on how he wanted to be in Boyz II Men's gang growing up

Then the band played a bracingly visceral rendition of "Forget" with Lewis dramatically striking chords and leaning forward over his guitar, all but lunging, singing more forcefully than before.

Fog drifted across the stage, and a haze of light from video screens flanked the drumset as the four members of Twin Shadow walked on the darkened stage. With little other fanfare, their set started with "Golden Light." Immediately, this performance was a reminder of a time when R&B bands still used guitar as a prominent, even primary, instrument, well-integrated into the overall songwriting.

The rhythm section augmented and accented the melodies perfectly. For songs in which texture and a sharper tone were necessary, the bassist played a P-Bass, and for other songs where the low end was more fluid and present, he played a synth. The combination of the two gave the set a robust and rich sound in the low end.

At times sonically like a more soulful INXS or the Fixx, Twin Shadow nevertheless didn't seem like a throwback but an update of a classic sound where solid songcraft mattered. The band's guitar shimmer and jangle sometimes recalled an early XTC or The Police, but Lewis' powerfully emotive voice elevated the tone of what was essentially moody, sometimes brooding, music injected with a spirit of defiance against life's down times. It was a truly well-practiced performance -- but it never came off as less than spontaneous. Past the halfway point, Lewis dedicated a song to Alicia Marsicovetere, who he said was basically his sister, and he pointed out into the audience where he was pretty sure she would be. That song was, appropriately enough, "Run My Heart."

The show would have been over after "Forget," and after such a strong showing maybe it should have been. But people were loving Lewis and the band, and he came out to perform "The One" by himself, making the end of the night unexpectedly intimate despite the heat out in the packed crowd. The full band came back on after this, and all four gave a fiery performance of "Shooting Holes." At the usual ending, Lewis went around to the band and gestured for them to continue, but after an even more intense reprise, the show ended. It's a bit facile to make a comparison between George Lewis Jr. and Prince, but this show made you imagine what it might have been like to be there for those early days of the Purple One -- had he been brought up on 80s R&B and punk and synth pop.

Continue reading for a setlist and a Critic's Notebook.

Opening the show was Sweden's Niki and the Dove. When the duo started out, probably not a lot of people really knew who they were, but by the end of the set this band earned more than a few new impressed fans. Malin Dahlström displayed such an effervescent yet soulful presence as a singer that it kind of took the audience aback. As Dahlström mentioned at one point, Twin Shadow asked this band on the tour, and it was a solid choice because the synthesis of synth-pop and R&B was very much the core of this band's music as well -- though it sounded nothing like Twin Shadow. Dahlström's voice was sometimes reminiscent of an amalgam of Nika Danilova, Bonnie Tyler and Kate Bush but mostly recalled Dale Bozzio with its lilts. But Dahlström could really make her voice soar in a way that half of those singer's don't. Gustaf Karlöf seemed to be making most of the music happen live, and his ability to weave together melody with the programming gave the band a dense but not claustrophobic sound. Dahlström told the audience it had been a childhood dream of hers to see the Rocky Mountains, and she fulfilled that dream when the band came from California up through New Mexico and to Colorado.

Drawing mostly from the band's excellent debut album, Instinct, Niki and the Dove's songs were a joyful blend of experimental electro-pop and straight-ahead pop songwriting. Dahlström's dramatic gestures offered a nod to her theater background, but they also made for a stronger visual impact than you often get with an electro duo. Before leaving the stage, Karlöf appeared moved by the enthusiasm of the crowd, and he said he hoped the band would be back soon.

Twin Shadow's setlist:


Bias: I've been a bit of a fan of Twin Shadow for a couple of years.

Random Detail: I ran into Adam Avery, formerly of Denver's The Bedraggled and Berkeley's Ill Gotten Gainz, at the show.

By the Way: Bands, stop using the oil-based fog.

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