BY MATT CARTER
It can be challenging to describe a Ratatat show without revealing too much; bassist Evan Mast’s aptitude for compiling lush projections for the band’s performance has only increased the visual aspect of what the Brooklyn duo is known for. And with Wednesday, July 26’s show at Roseland Theater selling-out weeks before the date, it’s apparent that the band’s following hasn’t at all waned in the 5 year absence of a new studio album. Naming their new album Magnifique, the Brooklyn duo had a lofty task of not only making their tracks exciting to listen to, but also “gorgeous” – as the French might say – to look at when played live. The sign posted at the entrance reading, “Tonight’s show features lazers and heavy strobe” was the first indicator of the band’s approach. And judging by the warning of seizure inducement, this one was aiming to be the highlight of a concertgoer’s summer.
Opening the show was rapper and native New Yorker, Despot, a familiar face who has toured and collaborated with Ratatat on several occasions going back as far as 2006, but has yet to put out solo album. He was quick to address this to the packed audience, “As you may know I’ve been working on an album with Ratatat for 5,000 years. These songs are proof that it exists.” Unlike Ratatat’s association with rapper Kid Cudi that seemed to have somewhat dissolved, their commitment to Despot may yield a collaboration album in the near future. With only his distinct Queens delivery and quirky subject matter to open the show, it’s easy to see why Ratatat have chosen Despot (Alec Reinstein) as a close ally. Not only does he share the same city, but Despot can hold his composure when facing non-hip-hop crowds.
A few songs in, Reinstein started the audience participation segment of his set, which featured him leading the floor in a short musical aerobic routine. This was not unlike his previous appearances where he performed jumping jacks onstage to accompany Ratatat during their shows. The show seemed to take a turn from there, with Portland not fully showing their appreciation for Despot in the form of movement, but ultimately won over by his dedication to his craft.
Ratatat then took the stage with a THX style intro of sound-curtain that coalesced in “Loud Pipes” off the 2006 album Classics. Each song in the set seemed to perfectly meld digital grooves with crowd-pleasing rock sensibilities, taking time to always build suspense before unleashing a volley of lazers or breathtaking holograms. The opener had rotating statue heads flanking the band before the movement of the song changed and the light show materialized into a new mode of eye-popping visuals.
Mike Stroud’s guitar virtuosity was infectious during his solos, “Falcon Jab”. Occasionally he indulged the crowd by playing in an arched back stance where he could look at the audience upside down. Meanwhile, Mast kept an ambling visage from the stage, either on bass or manning the auxiliary instruments like percussion or the antiquated mellotron keyboard . “The mellotron is probably the most different sounding thing from the past two records,” Mast conveyed when they added the instrument to their live arsenal. “It’s really challenging playing live because it slips out of tune like every two seconds.”
Stroud also pulled out the big guns when he played the pedal steel guitar for the track “Supreme” off ofMagnifique. It’s a slower entry in their catalog that pays homage to timeless slide guitar hits, such as Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalking.” Likewise, “Cream on Chrome” – a much more upbeat entry from Magnifique – had Stroud’s pulls on guitar sending fans into overdrive.
Closing their set with an encore of “Shempi,” the main keyboard rhythm of the song climbed over pulsing electronics and then stiffly nudged the sold out crowd back into a reality lacking incendiary lightning. If you weren’t at the show, fear not, the band will return Sept. 16th to Roseland for a second show to meet the demands of their fans.