Editors w/ Hot Hot Heat & Louis XIV – [Live]

Sunday, 17 February 2008

It’s always a weird phenomenon when the band you show up for is the opener and not the headliner—like going to a fabulous restaurant and ordering appetizers, then scoffing at the main course. But all bands—even the more obscure opening ones—have their fans, right?

That being said, I’m a huge fan of Hot Hot Heat and was excited to see their name on the marquee, even if it was in roughly 10-point font under Editors. I first saw HHH nearly six years ago at a little club in Roseville, Calif., when they were touring big after the release of Make Up the Breakdown, which was earning them headlining spots at bunches of small- to mid-size venues. As a fellow Canadian, I have to come out to support any music from the Great White North that doesn’t involve Celine Dion or Avril Lavigne, so I was glad to put my dancing shoes on and enjoy an evening of high-energy rock with them again.

But I was definitely in the minority. I wasn’t terribly familiar with Editors leading up to the show, but it was clear from the crowds around me that they were the highlight of the evening.

I showed up early enough to catch all of Louis XIV’s set, and was sure glad I did. They have an interesting sound, like a Jet-meets-The White Stripes with snarling amped violins and three-piece suits to rival a The Killers video. I was immediately impressed that they decided against the recently more popular Moog or Casio keyboard set-up and instead opted for an old school wooden upright piano like my eighth grade teacher used to play during choir lessons. The guys—Jason Hill, Brian Karscig, Mark Maigaard and James Armbrust—played “Air Traffic Control” (a synth-infused, spastic sort of ballad that sounds like something you’d hear on old episodes of “The OC”), “There’s a Traitor in This Room” and “Guilt by Association” from their new album Slick Dogs and Ponies. As lead singer Hill pulled long swigs off a bottle of red wine I thought, “What’s not to love about a bad-boy band with strings?”

Hot Hot Heat took the stage next, and I can’t say that their set blew me away as it did last time. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the band’s energy—frontman Steve Bays’ amazing Sideshow Bob fro banged against his keyboard as he played, legs kicking up and then bending down into full lunges. And it’s not like I didn’t enjoy the set list—I got into them during the Make Up the Breakdown era, so I was excited to hear some of my favorites like “Bandages,” the robotic “Talk to Me, Dance with Me” and “Oh, Goddammit,” not to mention some of their best songs off of Elevator like “Dirty Mouth.” They even introduced the audience to a few songs off Happiness Ltd., their latest album and a bit of a melodic departure from their more dance-heavy past. But something was off. The vocals were a bit louder than they should have been and Bays’ normal vibrato scowl was a bit more strained than usual due to a recent bout of acute laryngitis (which caused them to cancel the previous night’s show in Portland). In general, I think it was just not the best showing of a band I personally know to be amazingly energetic in concert, but I’ll definitely give it another go when they’re in town again.

As for Editors, I almost gave up after waiting nearly an hour after HHH wrapped up and we still hadn’t seen any sign of life on the Warfield’s stage. The crowd got antsy and progressively more tipsy, and finally a dim blue light shot out from behind the band and Editors began to play. Besides being a huge fan of their name (writing dorks rule!), I was immediately enamored with the band’s effortless electronic sound and the uncanny similarity between lead singer Tom Smith’s voice and that of Interpol’s Paul Banks. Cool, regal and almost gothic, Editors played through “Camera,” “Blood,” “Bullets” and other tracks from their hit 2006 album The Back Room, plus the title track of the recently released An End Has a Start. Bright lights in blinding white, pulsing red and ghostly blue shot out from behind the band, making them appear as performing silhouettes and creating more of a music video or dance club atmosphere than a traditional live concert.

And while I came for Hot Hot Heat, I was glad I showed up early and stayed late, since both Louis XIV and Editors outshone HHH (unfortunately!) and will definitely be added into my regular playlist.

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Hot Hot Heat:

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