Concert review: Jukebox the Ghost (with Matt Pond and the Lighthouse and the Whaler) let pianos lead the way at the Firebird, Friday, February 15

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Youths swilled from various cans, glasses and cups as they awaited a night of synthy-indie tunes — featuring Jukebox the Ghost, Matt Pond and the Lighthouse and the Whaler — at the Firebird.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler’s Michael LoPresti (wearing a sweet bandana) opened the five-piece’s set with “This is an Adventure” from the 2012 release of the same name. LoPresti’s nasally-twee delivery was supported by frenetic mandolin work and violin from his backing multi-instrumentalists.

“Venice,” a breathy love song, found LoPresti crooning, “Why don’t we fall in love?” On “Little Vessels” LoPresti taught the audience the song’s “woah-o-oh” chorus, asking them to sing it back, which they did after some goading. While the band’s folky, pop-outlook was refreshing and the players all put forth an impressive effort, the Lighthouse and the Whaler didn’t do much to differentiate themselves form the legions of bandana-wearing, “woah-oh-oh-ing,” modern indie-rockers.

Matt Pond, having recently ditched the PA from his name in favor of a solo career, played a colorful, uptempo set that ran the gamut between his new work from 2013′s “The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hands,” and his prolific eight-record back catalogue of “PA” tunes.

Pond opened with the jangly and fall-sun-dappled “Halloween” from 2005′s “Several Arrows Later.” The song shined with cello, twinkling piano and Pond’s characteristic relationship-based introspection. “KC” from 2004′s “Emblems” impressed with a catchy, stair-stepping pre-chorus and lyrics based in seasonal change, candle flame and loss. “From Debris” rocked with heavy drums, piano accents and Pond’s lilting, whisper-soft vocals: “From debris you and me could start something.”

At this point in the set, Pond moved into songs from 2013′s “The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hands.” The new sound represents a change for Pond who, after having broken his leg on tour last year, made a record fans could really groove-out to.

Yet another “Woah-o-oh” chorus somehow managed to stand out on “Let Me Live,” while “Love to Get Used” served up break-neck hammer-ons, fusing Pond’s old sound and his new, poppy direction as the tune moved from verse to chorus and back again. Pond rounded out his set with fan-favorite “New Hampshire” and the ephemeral “Wild Girl.”

Jukebox the Ghost, appeared before a banner draped on the back wall of the Firebird that depicted the band’s logo — a childish picture of a ghost with stick arms and googly eyes. Pianist and vocalist Ben Thornewill said a quick hello before guitarist/vocalist Tommy Siegel picked into the muted guitar of “Oh, Emily” from 2012′s “Safe Travels.” Jesse Kristin’s drumming was bombastic and chest rattling. The song served as apology to a girl for breaking her heart. “At Last” found Thornewill scaling up and down his piano, offering a ballad about a boy falling for a girl and doing his best to win her.


“Victoria,” from 2010′s “Let Live and Let Ghosts” found Thornewill playing with dynamics, jazzed-out balladry and a Ludo-meets-Captain Beefheart vocal delivery. The piece was manic and oddly jilting, but the audience ate it up.

On “Empire” the crowd danced as the song ebbed from piano-smattered verse to a chorus where both singers belted, “My heart is my keep and you are threatening me.” “Dead” was an acoustic departure that succeeded in adding contrast to the set, though the existential question the song posed felt tired: “If you’re dead how do you know if you’re really dead?”

Jukebox the Ghost powered through an epic set that featured over 23 songs, a commendable feat in terms of of endurance alone, but Jukebox the Ghost went further, fighting at every turn to keep the show interesting, lively, emotionally resonant and catchy. If the audience is to be considered a barometer for the band’s success in these pursuits, Thornewill and company succeeded.

Highlights included “Adulthood,” “Static to the Heart,” “So Let Us Create,” “A Matter of Time.” In addition, the three-piece covered “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers and Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” Both were played with grace and care, conjuring each artist’s particular sound with ease. Jukebox the Ghost would make an amazing ’80s cover band or a wedding band, no question.

Jukebox the Ghost finished its set with “Somebody,” “The Stars,” and my personal favorite, as heard often on 88.1 KDHX, “The Spiritual,” and then served up “Good Day” and “Summer Sun” for an encore.

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