While I appreciate a good light show as part of a performance, it’s rare that I see one that really captures the sound of a band’s music. Darkside’s Jan. 17 show at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) was the perfect example of the two coming together.
When the band, composed of electronic music producer Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, began plunking away on “Golden Arrow,” the opening track of their 2013 album Psychic, the lights synced up with all the characteristics of the song. It was sparse, twitchy and slow-building.
The song began with icy synth lines and moaning guitar chords accompanied by an eerie backlight and the occasional puff of smoke from the smoke machine. Eventually the song transformed into a psychedelic dance track with the lights slowly pulsing to the beat.
For the song “Heart,” red lights flashed to highlight Harrington’s searing blues guitar riff, and during The XX-sounding “Paper Trails,” the pale blue and white lighting accentuated the creepiness of Jaar’s baritone vocals.
When the songs reached their peak and the bass drops were unleashed, a blinding white strobe was released upon the crowd. The strobe was so powerful that a number of people looked away in agony and listened to the rest of the song with their eyes closed. Finally, for the Pink Floyd-inspired “Metatron,” while a slow, percussive opening played, a ray of light fired onto a giant, rotating mirror hung behind the band that in turn reflected the beam over the entire audience.
In addition to a light spectacle, it was also a musically brilliant show.
Harrington’s guitar was fantastic and, with the help of the 15 or so effects pedals, he was able to jump between tones, including percussive, drone-like, bluesy or just straight-up rock.
I also found Jaar’s ability to multitask incredible. He was constantly alternating between his MacBook, keyboard, synthesizer and multiple effects units. All around it was a brilliant display of musicianship from two artists who seemed to really be enjoying themselves.
The night’s opener, High Water, aka Will Epstein, brought his own take on psychedelic electronic music. His songs leaned heavily on numerous trippy, vocal-heavy samples that were often infused with a saxophone. While it was interesting, it still acted as a footnote to the night’s headliners. When Epstein joined Darkside for a jam session toward the end of the set; the saxophone he added to the track was great, but it just wasn’t quite as engaging as the music made by Harrington and Jaar. The duo not only has one of the best albums in recent memory, but one of the most engaging live shows to date.