The House of Blues stage glowed with hazmat-green airport runway lights as the Midnight — duo Jamison Tyler Lyle and Tim Daniel McEwan — began its set last night with its latest single “America Online,” a song that features a robotic hollow pulse that asks, “Are we all one beating heart?” Lyle stood at the mic with tousled blonde hair, singing “Lost Boy,” looking like he was fresh from a trip to the beach. McEwan was the smiley all-American boy, living out his drum machine fantasies, his enthusiasm making him the default hype man.
Guest saxophonist Jesse Molloy made a dramatic entrance during “Gloria,” and fans went completely bananas for the first of his many solos of the night. For a full minute, all eyes were on Molloy as he blew everyone away. The trio pushed the pedal faster, speeding us into the nostalgia-thick “Days of Thunder,” which morphed seamlessly into a cover of the quintessential summer fling heartbreak anthem, Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” Fans were now fully immersed in the endless summer, coming together as one dancing organism, in a personal back to the future. Fans were dressed in acid washed denim, sweatbands and sunglasses, enhancing the feeling we were all in a “Black Mirror” San Junipero-type simulation, not in the present, not in the past, not in the future, but coasting along a frequency that defied time or era.
The instrumental “Nocturnal” was reminiscent of composer Cliff Martinez, the composer for Nicolas Winding Refn’s cult thriller Drive
. Lyle and McEwan were inspired by the Drive
soundtrack to form the Midnight back in 2012, and it’s impossible not to picture yourself as Ryan Gosling racing along the L.A. streets while experiencing songs like “Collateral,” “Shadows,” “Crystalline” and fan favorites “Jason” and “The Comeback Kid.” The Midnight has a growing cult following of its own, proven with one glance around the room to see most of the crowd singing along to every lyric.
Molloy went peak Kenny G during “Vampires,” entering the floor of the cheering crowd while playing his sax, then disappearing only to hilariously return with a Kool-Aid man blast back to the stage, blowing his face off into his sax. Lyle prefaced “America 2” by saying it’s a song about living in modern day America, with all its frustrations and heartache. The emotions ran high during “Los Angeles” which played out like a sorrowful love letter to the City of Angels.
Synthwave resonates with so many who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s because it’s collaged with hints of music we were forced to listen to on road trips with our parents, trapped in the backseats of cars, buckled in and safe. We crave that safety, the feeling of crawling into our Transformer slumber bags at a sleepover, of watching “Gleaming the Cube” on our best friend’s brothers VHS tape for the umpteenth time. We’re chasing that thrill of meeting up with your middle school crush at the local arcade and staring at him from across the room as he leans against a Ms. Pac-Man machine, pretending not to notice you noticing him. The Midnight consistently injects this comfort high into its fans with video game noises and over-the-top saxophone solos. The resulting sound could be a cheesy campfest except that the music is so good, and the feeling it delivers is so satisfying you unwittingly sink into the warm leather bucket seats of the sonic DeLorean.
The encore began with “Lost and Found,” a track Lyle said is about mutual healing, sweetly saying, “If you need this song, it’s yours.” The Midnight closed its set with “Sunset,” the perfect finale full of heart and hope and a healthy dose of saxophone, the would-be soundtrack to a John Hughes movie set in space, which is the meat and bones of the Midnight, allowing you to remember the past just a little shiner than it actually happened, to enjoy the now and to anticipate the future with faith instead of fear.
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