Photographs by Ray Williams.
My night started going down the stairs to reach the venue floor at the fantastic (relatively) new live music club Adelaide Hall in the Entertainment District. The former dance club now is a very intimate space for great up and coming bands to really connect with the crowd.
They played songs from both of their EPs including Flash of Light, which has arena ready drumbeats and guitar riffs. On their slower songs Daly and keyboardist Michelle Ashley had great falsetto harmonies. They excitedly proclaimed that their newest EP came out in March and proceeded to play We’re The Kids their current single. They finished off their set with Golden, the self-titled track from their latest EP, which sounds more MGMT than M83. Daly had plenty of funky dance moves that would only be a prelude to what was coming next.
When X Ambassadors hit the stage, the mostly female crowd went absolutely nuts. While 75 screaming and jumping girls doesn’t seem that crazy, I can easily see this band playing a larger venue and having 200+ girls all react the same way which would be insane. Lead singer Sam Harris has a country rock tinged vocal range, which makes him a really unique singer. His different vocal styles are juxtaposed nicely with the bands Imagine Dragons style bombastic arena ready rock with The XX’s electronic minimalism.
Early on in the set the band played Free and Lonely a sexy mid tempo jam that easily could have been a Brad Paisley or another country bad boy jam. Towards the end of the song Harris broke out a saxophone and played a killer riff, which the crowd ate up with aplomb. During this moment every one took their phones out to take a picture or film this cool moment.
My one compliant about the show was the backing vocal mics were far too low that I couldn’t hear anything coming from them. Like the previous band Harris also dropped his leather jacket after one song due to the intense heat in the club. They did plenty of looping, whether it was with vocals or with the sax solos to create layered beats. Adam Levin, the drummer, must have been playing his kit way too hard because at one break Harris asked the venue to find a cinderblock to hold his bass drum still since it kept sliding forward. To my surprise during the next song a stagehand ran onto stage crouched and placed a cinderblock on the stage.
Harris has a very unique style of dancing that was put on full display during Love Songs Drug Songs, from their first EP of the same name. He had the moves of a mad MC mixed with Imagine Dragons Dan Reynolds with lost of hand flourishes and air punching. During his sax solo he did his best “Sexy Sax Man” impression thursting while not missing a note. The song had a sexy euro-club breakdown followed by a hard rock flurry finish.
Keyboardist Casey Harris is the brother of lead singer who also happens to be visually impaired which was a beautiful thing to witness. Seeing what it looks like for someone who just lets music take over his or her body is a beautiful thing. Not to compare anyone to the incomparable Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, you can tell that much like them, Casey Harris enjoys music in a way most people could only hope for. The Harris boys must have had some sort of professional training, as Casey’s piano fills between songs were simple and complex all at the same time. This is matched by Sam’s amuse-bouche sized sax samples, which were the perfect little bites of fun. Maybe I am biased since I think the saxophone makes everything sound better and I wished more bands had a horn section.
The last song of the set was Brother, which was clearly an important song to Sam as there was a slight lump in his voice when explaining it’s about someone you care about deeply. It was a wicked wah-wah guitar beat. After the band left the stage Ryan Daly of Parade of Lights who was right at the side of the stage jumped up and started an encore chant for them to come out. They quickly came back out and broke into Jungle a song they recorded with Jamie N Commons, a blues inspired song. Sam Harris jumped around on amps and while not missing a note he posed for a selfie with a front row fan who looked like she was going to faint from excitement afterwards. Harris danced in the crowd at one point too before triumphantly finishing the song and did a figurative mic drop where the song ended abruptly leaving the crowd panting for more, which is always the best way to end a set.