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Monday, 09 May 2011 11:27

Concert review: Here We Go Magic with We Are Warm and AroarA conjure up euphoric rock at the Firebird, Saturday, May 7

Concert review: Here We Go Magic with We Are Warm and AroarA conjure up euphoric rock at the Firebird, Saturday, May 7
Written by Alice Merrill

The oft-repeated theme of Here We Go Magic is one of creating something beautiful despite seemingly limited circumstances, Saturday's show at the Firebird being no exception.

The fledgling Brooklyn band formed a mere two years ago when progenitor Luke Temple was invited to tour with Grizzly Bear, and have since garnered glowing praise from the likes of Thom Yorke and Sufjan Stevens for their outstanding live performances.

Due to the venue's unusually low stage, opening bands are usually subjected to what I've come to call the "Ring of Firebird," a strange phenomenon where the crowd refuses to stand beyond an imaginary line drawn about six feet from the platform. It can be painfully awkward to transgress this invisible boundary, but a brave few began to inch closer once We Are Warm were several songs deep in their set. The local indie rockers seemed to have drawn in a respectable crowd on their own merit, and I heard not an insignificant amount of attendees confessing to never having heard of the headliners before. In unusual form for any first-of-two-openers, We Are Warm were met with so much enthusiasm that they even played a one-song encore at the crowd's behest.

Next up was AroarA, a well-dressed Canadian duo consisting of Andrew Whiteman (of Broken Social Scene and Apostle of Hustle) and his wife, Ariel Engle. Though not lacking for ingenuity, Engle's brazenly beautiful voice combined with Whiteman's classical guitar was not enough to sustain the audience for more than a couple songs. The Ring of Firebird reasserted itself as patrons gradually slipped towards the bar. AroarA suffered most at the hands of their unwieldy, pre-recorded backing tracks, the presence of which transformed the set into a sort of avant-garde karaoke.

Here We Go Magic finally took to the stage at 11:11 p.m. The ensemble started out with "Hibernation," an energetic piece replete with flouncy bass and lush, layered backing vocals courtesy of bassist Jennifer Turner. As the band's usual keyboardist Kristina Lieberson is absent from the tour, Engle and Whiteman of AroarA joined onstage to help fill out the sound. Whiteman took to the keys beginning with "Surprise," but struggled to integrate himself into the band's effortless, tight energy. Despite the hiccup, "Collector" invigorated the crowd and set all to dancing with abandon, performers included. As drummer Peter Hale made little effort to conceal his delight at the newfound energy, Turner skipped across the stage for a twee harmony with Engle.

Following the first-ever live performance of the meandering "Hands in the Sky" came the incontrovertible crowd favorite of the night, "Only Pieces." The song started out with tranquil but steady drumbeat as guitarist Michael Bloch provided hushed and soothing vocals. Unlike the studio version, the song did not fade away here but rather continued to build to a percussive explosion, the bands' voices joined by a joyful chorus from the audience. There was not a still body in the house as a newly barefoot Turner bounced from foot to foot onstage.

Here We Go Magic certainly did not disappoint, despite Turner's admission after the show that the band's performances had been "hit or miss" as they toured without a keyboardist. Though the set lasted barely an hour due to a midnight curfew, not a soul could remain bitter in the wake of such euphoria.



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