Odesza + Sofi Tukker + Louis Futon @ Mtelus – 17th November 2017

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I’ve been meaning to see ODESZA live for a few years, but have always talked myself out of it because I wasn’t sure how electronic music would transfer to a live platform. I fell in love with their new album A Moment Apart, so the tour to accompany it was as good a time as any to see what this world of live electronic music was really like. I wondered what an electronic musician could possibly do to make their show more interesting. A good light show only does so much, but fortunately, I could have not been more wrong, at least in regards to how ODESZA performs.

The night started out with a DJ going by Louis Futon, a Los Angeles-based producer, who has released music with ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective. He had some decent tracks that I listened to before the show, so I was excited to see how he’d perform them. Unfortunately, he did very little to engage the crowd, and his performance was limited to the small space between his keyboard, laptop, and electronic drum pad. His set was more or less a queued up playlist of the tracks he had mixed, with him occasionally playing a few chords on the piano or drumming a beat, but it mainly was him lip syncing to whoever had performed the vocals on his track. He was clearly having a lot of fun, but it really wasn’t transferring to the audience. I worried that maybe my theory about live electronic music was right, and the crowd was anxious for a better performance.

Our wishes were answered with SOFI TUKKER, the New York-based duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. Even as the crew was setting up the stage for them, you could tell it was going to be a more dynamic performance. There was an interesting palm tree-like set piece at the center of the stage, which turned out to be wired for their electronic percussion. This alone would have made their performance more fun, but it went way beyond that. They each played instruments—Sophie the guitar and Tucker the bass—and both sang, albeit in a way that can only be pulled off on EDM tracks. Their commentary and performance in general was hilarious and fun, even on their first song of the set, when Sophie came out into the crowd to dance with some of the fans. Their choreography and their presence on stage were amazing, and the interaction between the two of them showed that they truly were “Best Friends,” their most well-known track. As they finished their set, they told the crowd to brace themselves for ODESZA’s “beautiful performance,” and I was definitely ready for it.

ODESZA began their show with “Intro” from their most recent album, which tells the story of a Russian cosmonaut who is in outer space when he begins to hear a ticking. Because he’s stuck in space and cannot find the source of the ticking, to save his sanity, he must fall in love with the sound. In a projection, you see images of what the cosmonaut might be seeing as he looks out the window: the curvature of the earth; the emptiness of space with only the light of the stars to see. They then led into the title track of the album, and on the projector, you see a space craft and a fictional planet. Until this point, the tracks had been queued up and played through the speaker, but during “A Moment Apart,” a trombone and trumpet player add another layer to the track. The duo, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, finally step on the stage, accompanied by the ODESZA drum line. I knew, even at this early point in the show, that it was going to be much more of a production than I had expected.

ODESZA then made a seamless transition into “Bloom,” which is one of my favorite songs. It was made even better by the accompaniment. They then welcomed us to the show and hyped us up for what we all knew was going to be a great show. They then played a mashed up version of their songs “I Want You” and “White Lies.” It was abundantly clear that ODESZA had a much bigger budget for effects. The performance was complete with amazing light work, the projected video, and confetti cannons, but despite only seeing silhouettes of the duo, their performance really carried the show. They were able to transfer their energy and excitement into the crowd, something that both support acts were unable to do.

They then played “All We Need” and “Show Me” before getting to one of their major hits, “Say My Name,” a song that was the soundtrack to my first weeks at university. My computer had broken and the only music I had on my new phone was that iTunes free download of the week. It was incredible to hear it live as I reach the halfway point of my last year. They then played a remix of Saola’s “Beat Connection,” featuring a head-banging dog on the projector before moving into “Late Night,” one of my favorite instrumental tracks from the new album. They also played their remix of Ki Theory’s “Open Wound” and their track “Boy.” They then changed the pace, allowing the crowd to wrap their brain’s around this incredible show. They played “Thin Floors and Tall Ceilings.” An amazing video of water was projected and lasers were pointed into the audience, which really felt unifying.

They then transitioned into the hit from their new album “Higher Ground,” followed by “La Ciudad” and “Divide.” The next song they played from their most recent album was “Line of Sight,” which was one of the first singles they released for this album at the beginning of the summer. In terms of the energy in the room, it was one of the best of the night, and the drum line returned to accompany the song, which certainly contributed to the energy. They followed up with their tracks from their most recent two albums “Meridian,” “Memories That You Call,” and “Keep Her Close.” They then played a remix of Kodak to Black’s “If There’s Time,” ending by turning off all the lights.

The light returned with “Intro” from their debut album Summer’s Gone, which features a man explaining the idea of creating new sounds from magnetic tape that had already been recorded, the original way of remixing music, and transitioning into their hit from that album, “How Did I Get Here.” They then continued into their emotive “Kusanagi,” which starts out with the singular guitarist playing with a bow, which created an amazing sound that I had never heard before. One of the most powerful moments of the show was seeing the guitarist’s emotion as he moved the bow across the strings.’

One of the only times they broke up their songs by speaking, they encouraged the crowd to slow it down and get close to someone with the song “Across the Room,” which features Leon Bridges, one of the most talented vocalists of our time. It was one of my favorite songs off their new album, but unfortunately, it didn’t come across as well live. They then played “Don’t Stop” and “Falls” before closing their set with their hit from their sophomore album, “Sun Models.”

The crowd didn’t let them leave it at that, demanding an encore by stomping their feet and chanting, “One more song!” In their encore, they slowed it way down with “Corners of the Earth,” with the amazing Ry X, whose voice has a softness that pairs really well with ODESZA’s track. They closed the night with “It’s Only.” The drum line joined them, giving one of their best performances of the night and bringing the energy back up.

Overall, there aren’t words for the passion and energy that you could feel in the venue as ODESZA was playing. That’s what takes a concert from a “fun” to an unimaginably stunning performance. It’s what puts this high on the list of best performances I’ve seen and why I will make sure that I’m home in Denver, Colorado this summer if/when they are playing Red Rocks Amphitheater because there’s no chance I will miss that show after what I experienced last night.

Review – Rhodes Ford

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