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Wednesday, 29 February 2012 18:49

Concert review: MuteMath completes a thrilling marathon at the Pageant, Tuesday, February 28

Concert review: MuteMath completes a thrilling marathon at the Pageant, Tuesday, February 28 / Max Roper
Written by Will Kyle
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The house lights dimmed and a side door inside the Pageant opened. MuteMath bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas' long, dark hair billowed, silhouetted by a dim overhead light.

Two stagehands held two microphone stands cabled together and wrapped in white Christmas lights in the air over the heads of MuteMath's members.

Drummer Darren King and lead vocalist Paul Meany followed Cárdenas, enshrined like monks in the string of lights as the entire procession walked through the audience and down the main Pageant walkway toward the stage. The crowd cheered as King let loose an grand fill on a snare drum hanging around his neck. The march was underway. The epic, 27-song MuteMath set was about to begin.

Earlier in the evening, Canon Blue offered the Pageant a great set of indie-folktronica. Lead singer and guitarist Daniel James helmed the band with prestige and precision during "Indian Summer (Des Moines)." The song featured a breezy violin sample that sounded vaguely Pan-Asian. The group gave it their all, but didn't stir the audience as much as I'm sure they would have liked. Their harmonies were not mixed correctly and occasionally James' lyrics were lost to overripe drumming.

Soon after MuteMath's "home team" entrance, Meany leapt on stage to ambience blaring over the speakers, as the band quickly got set. King grabbed a roll of duct tape and tapped his headphones to his head with a flourish: under the chin and over the top of his head, like a recently abused dental patient from the old West.

The stutter drums of "Odd Soul" skittered from King's sticks as Meany leaned into the Black-Keys-meets-Jack-White vibe of the track. The chorus soared as Meany sang, "I'm an odd soul!" The crowd lifted their hands and dropped them in time with King's manic drumming. The man can drop a sick fill.

MuteMath transferred seamlessly into "Prytania" from 2011's "Odd Soul." The tune loomed full of chugging drums and Cárdenas' bass accents. Guitarist Todd Gummerman spun in place as King drummed bathed in blue light. After the song, Meany checked the audience, and the audience hooted back happily. "Blood Pressure" and "Spotlight" were presented as a suite that unwound sweetly from MuteMath's collective fingertips. The instrumentation was spot on, even though the mix didn't favor Meany's vocals as clearly as I had hoped.

"Tell Your Heart Heads Up" whirled like a top full of color and distorted vocals. Meany's lips moved over the nigh-rapped lyrics as King assisted with the "ooh, oohs" filling out the back of the chorus. The song was particularly interesting, because it blended the '70s rock with the bluesy-ness of Cárdenas' bass work.

"Sun Ray" stood as a loungey instrumental bathed in Meany's moody keys. King leaned on the ride cymbal to create a California back-alley feel. The song bled into the new single "Allies," and the stage effects exploded. Illuminated, three-dimensional, geometric blocks rose and fell behind MuteMath as the key changed right before the heavy-hitting chorus.

"Clipping" from 2009's "Armistice" examined themes of relationships and fighting for what one loves. "Nobody's right anymore. I don't know how to feel anymore," Meany sang as Gummerman hopped atop his piano. The tripping synthesizer Meany layered after the chorus propelled the song toward an Irish heather feel before it snapped back into electronic, post-rock. "Plan B" from 2006's "MuteMath" took the power of "Allies" and broke it down old school. Meany shouted as King tried to smash holes in his drumheads.

Meany rode out into the audience on a floating stage platform linking hands with fans around him as he sang bits of "Cavalries." He looked like a surfer riding the waves of fame. "Obsolete," a boiled-down jam piece, twinkled with trebly keyboard and perfectly-timed, exuberant drumming.

MuteMath continued its set, blasting through "Walking Paranoia," "One More," "Stall Out," "In No Time," "Noticed," "Chaos," "Equals," "All or Nothing," and "Control," with stage-effect accents of exploding confetti, smoke machines, audience participation and syncopated hand clapping. Meany helmed each chorus with power and insight, pushing MuteMath from rock peak to post-electronic peak and back.

The band wound down its set with "Control," "Break the Same" and "Quarantine," without missing a step, or ever letting the intensity slip. Side note: I cannot imagine charging through 27 songs every night with such energy and passion, major props to MuteMath for doing so. Such is the power of art.

After a short break, MuteMath returned for a three-song encore. "Reset" popped-off to dulcet cheers from the front row, who had been begging for the track all night. King's drumming was silky and the fuzz from Meany's keyboard mingled with the chatty bass thrum of Cárdenas. "Collapse" swiveled magically up to the ceiling with kick-punctuated snare fills and looping organ.

MuteMath ended the marathon with "Typical." The audience danced to the U2 Euro-invasion effect of the song's chorus. This version, in addition to MuteMath's entire show, replete with exploded post-chorus drum jamming, stage effects and vigor was anything but (pardon the pun) typical.

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