Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Emancipator Ensemble w/ODESZA & Real Magic @ Concord Music Hall - Chicago, IL - 1/31/14 (Review)

Event Review: Emancipator Ensemble + ODESZA & Real Magic at the Concord Music Hall, Chicago- Jan. 31st, 2014.

Review By: Joe LeBeau
Ilya Goldberg (left) and Doug Appling (right) of Emancipator

With the first month of 2014 behind us, let’s all take a moment to appreciate how much change and growth can transpire in just one short year: strangers become friends, lovers become stalkers, baby-faced Bieber becomes a baby-faced douche - although that one may have been a long time coming. For Doug Appling, aka Emancipator, 2013 was a year of major growth and achievements. When I first saw Emancipator almost exactly one year ago, it was in front of a crowd of no more than 100 people at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge.

Fast forward just 6 months to June 2013 when I had the immense pleasure of seeing him perform at Electric Forest’s largest stage (Sherwood Court) - a show my editor considers the best single set he has ever seen, then consider the fact that this past Friday the Emancipator Ensemble sold out the Concord Music Hall (listed capacity is 700-1600) in Chicago and you’ll appreciate how much the music of Emancipator has grown in popularity and recognition while garnering a diverse and passionate fan base in just one year.

The full Emancipator Ensemble
The event sold out early afternoon on the day of the show and when I arrived at the Concord somewhere around 9pm not a single scalper was in sight, though many hopefuls could be found wandering the parking lot and entrance line in search of spare tix. I completed the security/ticket check/coat check ritual just in time for the start of ODESZA’s set. The West coast-based electronic duo have an approach to music that combines catchy hip-hop percussion beats, glitchy vocals with layers of some quite beautiful electronic melodies. Their whole sound feels upbeat and bouncy yet dreamy all at once, and they definitely delivered these sensations and more during their live set.

As I found a spot on the floor close enough to the stage for a good look, which isn’t too difficult at the Concord, one of the first things I noticed was how incredibly down the people around me were getting. I mentioned before that the sounds of ODESZA have an upbeat and bouncy vibe to them, and as I looked around at my fellow patrons of the arts I was struck by how the whole crowd was literally bouncing in unison, which is definitely a good indication of the performance. Highlights from the set include their hit jam “iPlayYouListen”, two unreleased tracks that sounded unbelievable and an encore performance of “My Friends Never Die” off their recent EP by the same title.
Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight of ODESZA

I think there’s something to be said for having an energizing opening act for a downtempo headliner, as the combination of ODESZA into the Emancipator Ensemble was a winner in my book, as the former set the tone and energy beautifully for the dancy drum beats and soaring soundscapes of Emancipator. Performing with a live band is becoming more prevalent in electronically produced music as of late, most notably with Pretty Lights’ AnalogFuture Tour in the Fall of 2013, and I can’t imagine a better candidate for a live band performance than Emancipator. To the uninformed listener, his studio albums sound closer to a full band than a single producer, so the live ensemble seems like a logical evolution for Doug Appling’s music.

The Ensemble featured Appling on guitar, the familiar face of Ilya Goldberg on violin, Colby Buckler on percussion and an unnamed virtuoso rocking the bass, all performing in front of a beautifully understated stage production that featured tall, skinny parallel screens depicting a sunny, cloudy sky rolling past- an ideal backdrop to the nature-esque music being played. The Ensemble opened with “Lionheart” from Soon it Will be Cold Enough, and shortly after really got the audience moving with their popular single “Elephant Survival” and the song’s addictive drum beats and ethereal flute riffs.
Goldberg and Appling, lost in music.

From there, the performance was a perfectly concocted mix of songs off all three studio albums- Safe in the Steep Cliffs, Soon it Will Be Cold Enough, and, most recently, Dusk to Dawn- plus a couple very well received unreleased tracks to give us die-hard fans some new Emancipator to eagerly look forward to. The performance seemed to stand still in time, as one song flew so seamlessly into the next it was hard to keep track of them all, even to a seasoned fan like myself. The crowd was pleasantly diverse in age and backgrounds, and positivity and goodwill abounded amongst the enchanted, swaying showgoers.

The music’s enchantment was momentarily broken as Appling & Co. left the stage for their customary pseudo-exit and eager cries for “one more song” instantly arose throughout the venue. The good men of the Ensemble only left us hanging for a few seconds before re emerging to jubilant cheers and beginning what would be a three-song encore with the iconic Emancipator song “Anthem”, a fitting end to a beautifully crafted performance. I arrived at the Concord many hours earlier with high expectations for one of my favorite minds in music today, and Doug and his Ensemble far exceeded all of them in what was, from a passionate fan’s perspective, a flawless performance.

The Emancipator Ensemble Tour continues across the East and West Coasts through April, and if there’s a tour stop within a day’s drive of you I cannot stress enough how dearly you need to get out to see the Ensemble!

Some live footage we snagged at their stop the next day in Minneapolis:


Post a Comment