Hot Hot Heat
Like an antler war of indie rock, the Editors with Hot Hot Heat and Louis XIV was a musical butting of heads at the Pabst Theatre, and though some in the crowd were noticeably turned off by the clashing of pointed style, the energy of each performance produced collisions that were of a nature show quality (picture the drama of three large beasts colliding in slow motion, only to bounce off each other unscathed and do it over again).
Easily defending their territory as headliner, the UK-based Editors were powerful and exciting throughout their set with manic showmanship and a blaze of lights that often flooded out the performers on stage. Front man Tom Smith, whom the spotlight stayed fixed upon, seemed to be full of stored up energy that was about to boil over at any point in the show (numerous times Smith crawled atop his upright piano and joined drummer Ed Lay on his drum riser between darting about the stage), and his baritone voice, delivered with sometimes painful scowls, inquisitive glances and a host of gestures mixed with the bands foreboding sound and kept the crowd on edge throughout. The title track from their latest release, An End Has A Start, featured the band's full throttle surging of Joy Division meets modern American indie rock. And while the comparison to Joy Division, and hence Interpol, is unavoidable, the Editors are creating their own distinct path in post-punk revival with songs like "The Racing Rats," taking the root elements to something brighter and shimmering in effects-laden dance rock while still holding on to the shadows with oft-dark or pressing lyrics and eerie bits of interlude. From the group's debut release The Back Room, the Editors bordered a new wave synth sound in "Munich" while the new "Push Your Head Towards the Air," provided the quietest and most intimate moments of the evening.
Much harder to define a pecking order after the leader of the pack, the sets of Hot Heat and Louis XIV were both affected by their limited time slot and both came off a bit one dimensional-- Hot Hot Heat (of British Colombia, Canada) as clap-happy pop rock and American blues rockers Louis XIV (of San Diego) as crude garage rock. While Hot Hot Heat have headlined their own tour and while front man Steve Bays' stage antics, which ranged from humping his keyboard to other dramatic posturing, kept eyes affixed to the stage, the pop/alternative sounds of "Middle of Nowhere" from the group's 2005 release Elevator and "Goodnight, Goodnight" from the 2007 release Happiness LTD had worn incredibly thin at set's end. The more dynamic "My Best Fiend" and "5 Times Out of 100," both off the new album, represented the band's most interesting material, but these sounds were left largely unexplored in the brief set.
In the case of Louis XIV, it was more a matter of momentum that was slow to build and then cut off before full steam. Fresh off the 2008 release of Slick Dogs and Ponies, the new material was a bit tentative despite frontman Jason Hill's prodding/directing the band and the oddly artistic statement of a mannequin with fist raised, it's own mic and a drink (which Hill repeatedly sipped from) joining them on stage. While rife with double entendre, the respectable blues of "Pledge of Allegiance" and the rowdy "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" from the 2005 The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, had compelling grit and a light-hearted, if not snotty, tongue-in-cheek appeal.
And like fans to a sporting event, most in the crowd had already decided who they were there to cheer for before the show event started, but in this awkwardly-fitting match up, the diversity of the evening, capped off by the Editors' gripping performance, made for the best show at the Pabst so far this year.