11/11/14 – Paradise Rock Club

Based on the outfits of the band on stage, you’d think you were at the starting line of a color run 5K. White t-shirts, white button-downs, white pants—the guys of Caribou looked like they were just begging to get splashed in rainbow corn starch. In fact, the get-up was almost too clean, too simplistic for a band that deals in complex hues, textures, and layers. (Dan Snaith once said, “The thing that makes life interesting is how textured it is.”) It’s a shame the bouncers weren’t handing out color packets at the door.

But it turns out color packets weren’t necessary (although it would have made for quite the spectacle at the Paradise). Before launching into title track “Our Love,” Snaith slipped off his Adidas sneakers, revealing a pair of mismatched socks—one yellow and the other purple. Caribou then began to color in the blank slate that was their all-white attire, tie-dying the air in sound with each new track. With the album art for 2014’s Our Love draped in the background—featuring splotches of primary colors blending into one other—our vision gradually turned to a psychedelic tint.

Admittedly, it took some time to get there. The first thing any devout Caribou fan will notice is that, live, his songs pack a different kind of punch. Although not strictly a bad thing, it certainly takes some getting used to. Snaith has added three band members to the bill for the tour—guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Smith, bassist John Schmersal, and drummer Brad Weber—giving the arrangements an interesting rock twist. Think louder and heavier. The show felt less like a wade through gentle waters and more like a full-blown sea expedition in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic.

And when it worked, it was hypnotic. Splitting guitar feedback paired with bubbling electro explosions and clubby grooves made the songs just as danceable as ever, and extended versions of tracks like “Sun” rendered time meaningless as bodies flailed to the beat. Weber’s drumming, in particular, was a plus of the live arrangements. Occasionally joined by Snaith on second drums (who would oh-so-casually prop his feet on the top rim of the kick drum while he wasn’t playing), Weber attacked his instrument with precision and spontaneity, one moment pointing a single drumstick in the air and the next slapping away like a human electronic drum machine. On “All I Ever Need” and “Back Home,” he was the centerpiece, adding in extra drum rolls and clashes in unexpected places.

Yet sometimes the heaviness and exhilarating chaos came at the cost of clarity. Some of the most eargasmic moments on the records didn’t translate live, and Snaith’s vocal lines were often drowned out by the noise. If the studio versions were trance-inducing, the live renditions were sometimes less so: Our Love stand-out track “Silver,” for example, seemed a bit disjointed, lacking the smooth, melodic pulse characteristic of the recording.

Still, it’s impressive that Snaith has been able to bring his one-man project to the stage, and in full color. It’s one thing to blast Caribou through your earbuds, letting the endless looping engulf you into your own little world, but it’s quite another to experience his work in person. Forget the mismatched socks—Snaith’s a master at what he does.

Flying Colors: Caribou
Pros
  • Extended versions of songs
  • The bad-ass drummer
  • Good mix of old and new tracks
Cons
  • Some melodies lost in the noise
  • Limited interaction with the audience
  • Could have been more creative with lighting & visuals
8.2Overall Score

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