About three-quarters of the way through Nite Jewel‘s opening set for Chairlift at Vancouver’s Electric Owl on April 6, 2012, Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly stealthy made their way onto the crowded dance floor and danced along to Nite Jewel’s lo-fi dance beats. No one seemed to notice the Chairlift duo, and they managed to sneak away before the start of their set without anyone seeing them or stopping to take a pic.
Night Jewel, singer-songwriter Ramona Gonzalez‘s Los Angeles-based alt-dance band, opened the night with songs from her recently released sophomore album, One Second of Love. While the album is filled with ’80s synth sounds and ’90s-style R&B-type dirty bass, layered over drums and Gonzalez’s pretty, milky vocals, the songs performed live felt messily grouped together and a bit all over the place. The highlight was definitely the album’s title track, which found bodies moving on the dance floor, but overall, the Nite Jewel’s set seemed to lack direction (and felt a bit endless), even though it got slightly better towards the end.
Chairlift’s set started with a gradually increasing scream by Polachek before she dived right into “Sidewalk Safari,” the upbeat opening track from the band’s second full-length, Something. As Polachek’s vocals hopped all over the melody with ease, she danced about, moving her arms like they were graceful wings.
From “Sidewalk Safari”, the Brooklyn-based band moved right into “Take It Out On Me”, a down-tempo synth-heavy number, which the band performed flooded in purple light. The song was reminiscent of something Sade might sing, and Polachek’s silky vocals had just the right amount of substance required for the tricky arpeggios. “Then, Wrong Opinion” started with a long drum intro before the melody came in with ease.
Up next was a song from Chairlift’s debut album, Does You Inspire You. “Planet Health” has a dissonant, pentatonic scale running above a low bloated bass, and in concert, the effect of this had a dark, haunting feel, especially with the band cloaked in blood red light. This was followed up by “Ghost Tonight”, an almost cabaret-style, snappy dance number; then, “Met Before”, which had a rumbling, lo-fi garage band-inspired sound. Polachek introduced “Frigid Spring” as a “pastoral”, which was pretty fitting, not just in the nature-focused lyrics but in the free-spirited melody and folksy, guitar-strumming accompaniment.
Of course it just wouldn’t seem right to most people in the audience if Chairlift didn’t sing their biggest hit “Bruises”, so an record-perfect rendition, complete with the clever insertion of Modern English’s “Melt With You” midway through. Slowing things down for a minute, Polachek’s soothing vocals glided over the minimalistic bass in “Guilty as Charged”, but kicked up the tempo again before the encore with the poppy dance single “I Belong in Your Arms”.
For their three-song encore, Chairlift started with a performance of the ethereal ballad “Turning”, which Polachek announced was the first time they had played the song live. The night ended with two more upbeat songs: first, “Evident Utensil” and then finishing with “Amanaemonesia”. Overall, Polachek made the song’s tricky vocals sound easy, and the band’s accompaniment was bang-on. With a solid, sexy set like this, Chairlift won’t be able to watch their openers without going unnoticed for much longer.