7/31/16 – Paradise Rock Club

A swell of PDA enthusiasts and romantic lovebirds flocked to the Paradise Rock Club on Sunday to listen to LA-based R&B jazz group, Rhye. While concert environments inevitably lead to unsolicited body contact, Rhye’s audience members seemed to intentionally seek each other out – hip holding, grinding, and full-blown liplock before the show even started.

Groping around and tripping in the cluttered space, crew members prepared the stage. Void of musicians, yet already overcrowded with instruments, the stage housed a keyboard, drums, bass, violin, trombone, and an electric cello in anticipation. 

Cast in near darkness, five men and one woman entered the stage and adjusted themselves at their respective instruments. When lead singer Michael Milosh hit his first note, a dumbfounded woman in the audience exclaimed, “It’s a guy?”

These understandable and probably common reactions to Milosh come from his uncanny likeness to Sade and the female portrait on the cover of Rhye’s only album, aptly titled Woman. But, the only woman performing with Rhye was trombonist/cellist Claire Courchene who seduced and captivated the audience with her emotive bow work and trombone expertise. As her bow fretted rapidly over the strings or her face contorted while blowing into the mouthpiece, she managed to stand out even with her placement in the back corner of the stage.

If hummingbirds could make music, it would sound like Courchene’s cello – sometimes erratic, sometimes graceful, but always alluring. Her strongest performance was during “Major Minor Love” when the group deviated from the studio version, only to greatly enhance it with an extended improvisation by Courchene and violinist Thomas Lea. Their duet was both sonic and physical – together the reverb from their strings created a tangible sound that resonated  in ears and chests.

Gaging by the whistles and hollers of approbation she received when Milosh introduced her, Courchene enchanted the audience. Despite her sway over the audience, Milosh stood strong as the obvious star of the show with his enamoring, caressing voice and his poised stage presence.

Often, live shows become breeding grounds for second-hand anxiety in audience members who desperately want singers to meet expectations out of fear that a disappointing voice will shatter the magic of the music. Milosh avoided this apprehensive feeling by delivering unparalleled vocals with confident nonchalance, especially in the group’s performance of “Shed Some Blood” when Milosh flaunted his range.  

Toward the end of their set, the audience lost focus. People were spacing out, making out, and generally interacting less with the band. For those who treat music as a form of escapism, this was perhaps the ultimate achievement – total absorption in the music. But for those who seemed bored rather than captivated, perhaps their lack of interest was due to the slower-than-usual tempo the band adopted and the extra hint of moodiness in their performances.

The crowd was such a mushy mess that even Milosh addressed the romance. He dedicated “Open” to a couple celebrating their five-year anniversary who thanked him with shouts and claps from the balcony. Excessive PDA ensued; Milosh’s performance of “Open” could put anyone in the mood. With the audience’s attention re-captured, Rhye started to wind down the show.

For the last two songs, “Hunger” and “It’s Over,” Milosh hushed the audience to almost complete silence, and the group dramatically performed to a speechless crowd. Gaping and wide-eyed audience members respected Milosh’s wishes, except for one woman who called out, “You have the voice of an angel” – a cliché but accurate compliment that Milosh took graciously, although obviously peeved that she spoke out. The same way it’s almost impossible to suppress laughter at inappropriate times, trying to remain quiet at a concert created an anticipatory tension that intensified during the final song.  

With the already-somber “It’s Over,” Milosh heightened the melancholy by stepping back from the mic to sing a cappella to create a haunting ending. When he finished, the audience took a collective, almost palpable exhale before erupting in cheers and whistles to show their appreciation of the unique performance. Moments like these are the reason people go to concerts – to see something exclusive to live performance – and the audience was definitely satisfied with Milosh’s special serenade.

The majority of the audience lingered and chanted the customary “one more song,” but the house lights suddenly came on as a rude indicator that Rhye would not honor the tradition. Closing the show without returning on stage for an encore left a feeling of disappointment and distaste in the audience that could have, but didn’t, ruin the experience. At the time, their refusal to humor the audience with a final song seemed discourteous, but in retrospect, their decision to end with “It’s Over” seemed appropriate. The song’s poignancy and the overall delicate ambiance of the show would have been ruined by a typical encore “banger.”

A Seductive, Somber Serenade: Rhye
PROS
  • Unique a cappella experience
  • Impressive cello and violin duets not heard on the album
  • Strong group cohesion
CONS
  • Performed songs at a slower tempo than studio versions
  • Lost audience's attention during the middle of the set
  • Didn't return for an encore
8Overall Score

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