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Gig Review: Passion Pit @ The Prince Bandroom, 5th August

Last night Passion Pit played to a sold out and adoring crowd at the wonderful Prince Bandroom. Many factors combined to make this one hell of a gig: a really great opening act in The Joy Formidable, a very tight and enjoyable set from Passion Pit, fun banter, and a ban on all photography.

The latter was definitely an interesting option, and unprecedented in terms of gigs I’ve been to at the Prince, but it served to really increase the atmosphere when you didn’t have to constantly stretch to look over cameras in the audience.

Arriving at the Prince shortly after 9:30, we were just in time to hear the entirety of The Joy Formidable. I was thrilled about this: I’ve listened to the Welsh band for a while but unfortunately missed their Splendour set due to a flight delay. If this opening set was anything to go by, they are a live act to be reckoned with.

Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan was absolutely electric, lighting up the venue with laid back charm, powerful vocals, and her really really cool hair. I recognised a couple of their songs from the album ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’, and it seemed as if a few others in the crowd did as well, singing along occassionally.

Cradle was brilliant live, losing none of its rawness or energy, and is a song worthy of any headline act. Likewise Whirring was blistering and a lot of fun. There can be no denying that their music has a bit of a sameness to it, but when it is all this good, who cares?

The Joy Formidable have an album due out later this year, and I’m pretty sure they trialled a few new songs in their set, but without extensive knowledge of their back-catalogue it’s hard to tell. What I do know is that this was a faultless support act set that I would have been happy to pay for by itself. You get the feeling this band is one album away from skyrocketing in popularity, so the days of being able to see them in this position may well be numbered.

It was a decent wait before Passion Pit took to the stage, the better part of 45 minutes. Meanwhile the crowd was growing rapidly in both size and anticipation, creating a simmering atmosphere that was just waiting to explode.

And explode we did, the moment Passion Pit appeared on stage, right on time (if the girl who was standing next to me is reading this, you still owe me that drink). The noise was something to behold. Wasting no time whatsoever, Michael Angelakos and co. broke into their instantly recognisable bouncy synth-pop.

What followed was a surprisingly diverse set. When a band with only one full-length album under its belt needs to fill an hour and 15 minutes with music, you’re bound to have some interesting fluctuations, and this was very evident during Passion Pit’s set.

Almost without exception, every song off ‘Manners’ just went off. I mean full blown jumping, screaming, singing, everything you’d expect at a Passion Pit concert and everything that looked so very fun from a distance at Splendour. It was so great to be a part of it this time, right at the front. In contrast songs not off ‘Manners’ however, although far from crashing, created a bit of a lull in the atmosphere.

This being said, the highs well and truly made up for the lows. Make Light provided an early sing along, with that wonderful buildup of energy followed by the release of “No more!” which was sung with varyingly skilled falsettos by the entire crowd.

As always, the acoustics in the Prince were spot on, and the lighting effects are very impressive for a smaller venue. This is the Melbourne venue that Passion Pit were born to play.

The Reeling, which is actually one of my least favourite songs off ‘Manners’, really came to life in the atmosphere of the crowd chanting ‘Oh no-o-o-o’ as loud as we could. Likewise Moth’s Wings provided a chance to go crazy and sing along once more. For a band undeniably not driven by lyrics, it was interesting to see the encyclopaedic knowledge that most of the crowd had of Passion Pit’s music.

The set experienced a bit of a lull in the middle, with a few of ‘Manners’ less danceable tracks making an appearance. Michael’s banter was anything if not honest- “We’ll be back in 2012!” seemed oddly specific and much too far in the future to even contemplate. Their tour manager must be a plan ahead kind of guy. However Michael got it just right with “I’m sweaty… I wasn’t sweaty last night. That has to be a good thing”.

Let Your Love Grow Tall was awesome fun, but the highlight of their main set was without any doubt Little Secrets, the song they opted to finish their set with when I saw them earlier this year at the Big Day Out. What a song. It is this that resulted in one of the most memorable images of Splendour for me, thousands of people jumping up and down while standing on a slippery slope. Likewise at the Prince this song just went off, as the crowd sung “Higher and higher and higher” while jumping in such a way as to take our own words to heart. I’ll never get tired of doing this.

After a very brief token encore break, the band were back to the sound of deafening applause. We knew they’d be back, because Passion Pit already have a reputation as a band that plays every single one of their hits live. It is of course easier to do this with a limited backcatalogue of only one album, but there’s still something to be said for a band not afraid of giving the crowd what they want.

The encore was a sensationally enjoyable 15 minutes of music. Eyes As Candles got things started and saw the jumping, singing, and dancing reach new heights, with the infectious chant of “Na-na-na-na-na-na” creating a pulsating feel in the room.

A cover of The Cranberries’ Dreams was predictable for those familiar with Passion Pit’s live show but still was very enjoyable. Such was the crowd’s love of this band, many people started chanting the opening refrain of the last song before it even began playing, knowing exactly what was coming.

“And everything is going to the beat, and everything is going to the beat.”

Sleepyhead was just majestic. We were looking for one last reason to go mental and show our love for this band, and this song gave us just that. You have to give Passion Pit credit- they make music that should by all rights be very difficult to reproduce live, but Michael’s voice has grown significantly since the last time I saw him live, when he struggled with some of the highest notes. Sleepyhead, a song that should be close to impossible to perform properly live, somehow was even better than in studio form. “And you said, it was like fire around the brim”.

This was an incredibly fun gig. I can’t help but feel it may have actually been more enjoyable if shortened to about an hour, reducing the dips in atmosphere, but it’s mighty hard to complain about too much music, and Passion Pit may have just wanted to ensure we were getting value for money.

I made a wild dash for a setlist but instead grabbed what was some kind of message to the band. Definitely not worth getting tackled by security for. Here it is, make of it what you will.

So consider this a shout out to Bobby.

Passion Pit’s Splendour set may have been spectacular, and they may have had 20,000 people jumping up and down in time, but to me they are still an indoor venue band. This gig was a testament to this fact, however if their Australian tour has proved anything its that this is an adaptable band growing in confidence with every show.

Their live show has come a long way this year, and Passion Pit are a massive force behind fun music now, both live and in the studio.

Bring on 2012.

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