Passion Pit at Toronto Danforth – Live Review
When: April 29, 2015
TOTAL SCORE – 8Â
Visual/Sound Presentation: 7/10
Stage Presence: 6/10
Musical Ability: 7/10
Crowd Reception: 10/10
Wow Factor: 8/10
Passion Pit is big. Not in terms of chart domination or cultural influence butÂ more so that everything about Michael Angelakos and the neon-tinted synthÂ pop anthems he’s been making for the last six years carries more weight than one would expect.Â
Case-in-point: the huge banner emblazoned with Passion Pit’s name, dominating the stage at Danforth Music Hall. The banner came accompanied by an equally huge lighting rig, not to mention a gear setup that looked like somebody had robbed a warehouse’s worth of analog synths and effects racks (In a recent interview, Angelakos quipped that Passion Pit may have finally beaten Hot Chip for number of keyboards on stage).
Nashville four-piece Coin opened and despite their sonic and visual anonymity, the crowd was receptive of their blog-friendly, uptempoÂ rock.
As soon as Passion Pit took the stage to the glittering stompÂ of current hit “Lifted Up (1985)”, the project’s strengths were demonstrated: titanic hooks, danceable grooves, and an overall aesthetic of more, more, more. A five-piece band, all of whoÂ were necessary to accurately replicate Passion Pit’s overloaded arrangements, backed Angelakos. Drummer Chris Hartz in particular contributed showy fills that gave the performances an arena-ready rock feel. AngelakosÂ himself was in fine form, consistently pulling off the (in)famously high-pitched vocals that remain Passion Pit’s signature.
At times, the brickwalledÂ choruses drowned him out, potentially dulling their impact. It was then that the frontmanÂ would rely on his not-so-secret weapon: the crowd. There were very few moments when they weren’t on their feet, matching Passion Pit’s nearly non-stop assault throughout. Every time Angelakos pointed his micÂ out, the audience responded enthusiastically, elevating the likes of “Little Secrets”, “Take a Walk”, and (of course) “Sleepyhead” into the stratosphere. In general, the energy level in the room was high, peaking with an unstoppable middle block of cuts from 2012’s Gossamer LP.
The performance itself seemed fairly routine for Passion Pit. Angelakos’Â banter was nonexistent other than the usual “we’re happy to be here” fareÂ and each of the songs were played as is with no jams or unexpected touches.Â
While acts in the same vein as Passion Pit have become much more common in this decade, there is still no one doing exactly what Angelakos does. Much has been made of the divide between his tortured lyrics and the sugary melodies he chooses to convey them and it was apparent during the show — the terrified “oh nooooo!” hook from “The Reeling” got one of the biggest sing-alongsÂ of the night. AngelakosÂ is a pro pop craftsman at this point and most of the show felt like a live “greatest hits” compilation, with most of the setlistÂ coming from Passion Pit’s back catalog rather than new albumÂ Kindred.Â Â
I came away impressed with the effect Passion Pit had on their fans. It’s not easy to get an indie crowd going in this city, and Angelakos did that simply by singing his outsized, anxious, but masterfully crafted pop songs. A solid, fun night out.
See albumÂ here: