The young Brooklyn quartet run onto stage, seemingly more youthful in person than I expected; with high energy and excitement greeting the crowd and taking their places. They strap on their guitars and immediately begin with the newer track, “White Sky” the crowd goes in an uproar with elation. The set continues with “Holiday”the next track on their most recent release, Contra; playing with intensity in an upbeat tempo. Bassist, Chris Baio is dancing and jumping in place as Ezra Koening croons the crowd with his smoothly soft voice. Afterwards he casually greets the crowd, “Hello Chicago” he sings with this macho confidence, dancing around with his guitar. Koening has a “Jailhouse Rock” presence to his performance style, demanding attention as he serenades the audience with crowd favorite, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”. Keeping a playful manner with the audience, we are orchestrated to assist the band with the chorus; energy stays upbeat through performance as the crowd is ecstatic to sing along.
Quickly spitting out lyrics, Koening sings “California English” as the song breaks down to his bare strum on the guitar he shakes his hips and Christopher Tomson crashes in on his drums. The band continues raising the intensity and tempo; with a quick strum everyone on stage and in the crowd are jumping and moving their feet. The lights dim, Rostam Batmanglij takes a seat at his keyboards as the other three appear as though they are playing on a street corner with more classical instrumentation. The girls swoon, chandeliers hang above the stage and the mystery blonde(album cover) hangs as a backdrop, glowing overhead in an eerie fashion. Koening shakes his head as he reaches a high note, often on his toes, he points into the crowd. Taking a breather and “giving the audience a moment” checking everyone's status throughout; he flirts with his fans, smirking with confidence and beckoning all of us to bounce along. Continuing to brag about the number of stops through Chicago thus far, he reminds those of the warm temperatures from last year's Lollapalooza, once again requesting aide with the chorus. With strobe lights flashing, there is a rhythmic synchronization between the drums and Koening's fast guitar strum emulate the heart thudding sound of a machine gun reverberating throughout the old theatre weaving into a mixture of African inspired beats and chants. Each member has a unique approach to dancing about stage as they strum along with the song. The sea of teenagers sway back and forth in awe, singing along and pounding their fists in the air with the chorus. I think the appeal has a lot to do with the combination of these jovial melodies and this sense of adolescence in the lyrics as the Brooklyn quartet retain this playful disposition on adult hood as they dance and sing these sugar-dipped tunes on stage.
After a brief break, the band returns to stage thanking the crowd and requesting one more sing-along chorus. As Ezra utters the words, “In the summer...” the theatre explodes with excitement as everyone sings the verses to “Horchata”. Tomson continues to pound on the drums in a pseudo tribal/marching band fashion. Koening playfully teases the crowd to keep up the intensity for the next song, commenting on the early hour. He challenges everyone to move their body for the next two minutes, they begin playing “Mansard Roof” at a fast pace. Stomping his feet and speedily strumming his guitar, getting alarmingly close to the outreached hands of the crowd. Canvas Nikes are the new blue suede shoes, as the crooning New Yorker shakes his hips; he bids farewell pointing in the air and singing with a suave machismo. The drums pounding hard, lights flashing, crowd jumping...strums and an explosion of cheers.