by Sam Mendez
Last night at House of Blues, Silversun Pickups gave a great performance to a nearly sold-out crowd of diverse ages from teenagers who were skipping their homework that was due the day after, to middle-aged adults who were already drunk from watching the Browns earlier that day. The entire band was in top form. Singer-guitarist Brian Aubert’s guitar-playing was spot-on as he pulled off great solos in songs like “The Royal We” and “Out of Breath.” He also delivered a spine-tingling tremolo solo in “Panic Switch” before going into the real solo. His vocals were also uncompromised, sounding almost exactly like he does on the master tracks; it’s impressive to hear a voice so organic in this day and age of heavy vocal production. But Aubert wasn’t the only person in the band that shone bright; drummer Chistopher Guanlao was a flurry (as he always is), headbanging through his over-active drum-lines in “Panic Switch” and “Busy Bees,” and he surprised the crowd when he played acoustic guitar for the first verse in “Here We Are.” Even keyboardist Joe Lester, who’s the most low-key member of the band, got his time in the spotlight during “Bloody Mary” and “The Pit.” He played the heart-wrenching violin solo (on keyboard) in “Catch and Release.” But what was most relieving was seeing the bassist Sarah Negahdari (who was filling in for Nikki Monninger) hold her own that night. She wasn’t simply a bassist-for-hire; Aubert gave her the spotlight in “Simmer,” “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” and let her solo with the catchy bass-line of “Panic Switch,” and she sang the backup vocals that Monninger does in songs like “Mean Spirits” and “Little Lover So Polite.” The crowd wasn’t too rambunctious, but was definitely into the performance, singing along to the well-known verses and choruses in “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye.”
Aubert not only gave a great performance, he was also very personable and entertaining with his crowd banter. It had been three years since Silversun Pickups performed in Cleveland at Lakewood Civic Auditorium, and Aubert recalled how much fun he had that night. He talked about how they wandered around Lakewood at 1 a.m. after that show, and joked about how Lakewood’s neighborhood watch program sucks because they should have been arrested. He also joked about how Monninger wasn’t performing tonight because she was at fat-camp (she’s actually pregnant with twins). He then told Negahdari to tell the crowd what her only rule was, to which she responded, “don’t get pregnant.” Aubert’s performance made you feel as if he was paying attention to you and you only, making eye-contact with as many people as possible, and getting really intimate during “Here We Are,” pointing at girls and making them swoon (pun intended). At one point, Aubert grabbed someone’s phone from the front row and put it in his jacket pocket for a minute, then pretended to look through it and acting like what he was looking at was scandalous. If any other front men were at the show last night, take notes; it’s this extra element that makes a performance even more unforgettable.
Openers Atlas Genius, an Australian indie rock band with a drummer who was very fond of hi-hat-rolling drum-lines and seemed to never let up. Their style fit well for a Silversun Pickups opener, with guitars that were prevalent but not too heavy, and a keyboardist who wasn’t being overshadowed. They ended up liking the crowd so much that they took a picture and a second one just for safe measure. Performing after them was Cleveland’s own Cloud Nothings, and while they’re generally categorized as indie rock, their performance felt like they were trying to pioneer “progressive punk.” After they would finish a song, they would go off into a jam-band-esque interlude, where at times it would degenerate into aimless noise. The front man’s voice was harsh and somewhat undistinguishable, and the guitars were loaded with gain, giving it that heavy punk sound. The drummer, although only having the most basic of drum kits (a hi-hat, snare, floor tom, bass drum, and one cymbal), he proved that it’s not about how many drums you have, and was fast and furious throughout the entire set. They certainly rocked, but perhaps they rocked too hard to be opening up for Silversun Pickups. Their last song, however, was the slowest of their set, probably because they exhausted themselves. Regardless of if their performance complemented Silversun Pickups or not, the crowd definitely enjoyed them.