Youthful screams greet Boston’s Magic Man as their visages peek through the elevated window, stage right, overlooking the stage at West Hollywood’s venerated venue, the Troubadour. The 5-piece band descends the stairs, takes the stage, and jumps right into their set. Immediately, it’s clear that the focus of their appeal to those responsible for the high-pitched shrieks is their charismatic lead singer — Alex Caplow — heart-throbby in a 1980s Rob Lowe meets (a hyper-sincere version of) Bieber.
Thumping bass supplements the synthy melodies featured on their debut album, released just two days prior, and by the second track — “Every Day” — we have a rousing sing- and clap-along. Arms are raised, bobbing in unison, and reflexive squeals result as Caplow reaches towards the crowd. It’s unapologetic pop; it’s presented passionately and it doesn’t feel hackneyed, even while it’s not exactly groundbreaking. It’s The Naked and Famous meets Royal Teeth at a Passion Pit show attended by NKOTB‘s Jordan Knight in the UK.
By contrast, original band member and guitarist Sam Vanderhoop Lee looks like he just left an AP Chemistry study session. He adds some nice licks to their equation, staying mostly in the background physically and symbolically as he contributes to their synth-driven process.
“Every Day” acknowledges the zeitgeist with an EDM build, embracing pop as a communal experience. This ongoing embrace of a sense of community within songs is a logical artistic reaction to the alienation inherent in the electronic era, and electronic music responds by using those tools to reconnect amidst alienation. We’re all in this together…
On numerous tracks, they acknowledge the genius of the disco drum revival re-popularized a decade ago by Franz Ferdinand and others, as Joey Sulkowski often utilizes these familiar and danceable rhythms to propel their tracks forward.
Some songs miss slightly for older ears; anthems targeted towards our inner-16 year old are at times a bit slick for edgier audiences but clearly have a bulls-eye painted upon mainstream appeal. Throughout, though, the contagious excitement of wide-eyed youth — each experience a new one, travel still free of the burdens of touring tedium — is their strongest trait.
Perhaps their best song of the evening builds slowly; “It All Starts Here” shows greater patience before entering the chorus. It also offers up something of an Airborne Toxic Event enunciation/emphasis with vocal phrases often ending on first beat of the next measure. They end with a rousing version of their lead single, “Paris,” showing affection for neo-soul as the crowd roars its approval.
A brief interlude gives way to their return and the opening chords of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing In The Dark.” Of the artists they might have chosen to cover, The Boss seems one of the least likely and it feels almost like it may have been suggested to the band. Caplow’s vocals pull it off, but the overall sound seems be a bit affected as synths take on a much larger role in the arrangement. Not that the crowd minds that one bit, cheering enthusiastically and asking for more. But the performance has reached its conclusion, and the band saunters off stage carrying the moment’s rewards: the audience-artist feedback loop makes it clear that this performance signifies an auspicious launch to their career.