All I knew going into Rhye’s show at D.C.’s Sixth and I Synagogue (Jewish Rhye lol) was that I was about to see a band that strictly forbade photography, whose male lead singer sounds uncannily like Sade and put out an album called Woman, and whose music was straight up sex. Black and white photos of bare female backs and smooth necklines swirled through my head. It was hard to know how this would all materialize.
At a glance, Rhye’s preference for anonymity emits an air of pretension. Some bands make calculated strides toward the shadows to foster a mysterious image by avoiding having one at all. They want people asking questions, awestruck by the lack of answers. After witnessing Rhye’s live show, though, it is plain to see that Rhye doesn’t mind this perceived enigma cracking open. What they strive for instead, is the ability to sing about sex and love, while relatively removed from the confines of image, fashion, and gender roles. They want to do sex some justice. They want to remove distraction. They sing in the dark.
When Mike Milosh cooed, “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs,” it seeped out into building’s cavernous dome like a heavy mist through a crack in a wall. There was no sign of irony there, no tongue in cheek pseudo swagger, nothing but silhouettes set against somber red lighting and flickering candles. Similarly, when he whisper-howled his appeal, “make love to me,” he expressed what felt like a real feeling (his wife was actually sitting directly in front of him in the first row, so you never know). The space filled with the sparse but inviting sounds of a group of tight musicians simply playing their music well, whilst saying beautiful things. What more did we need to see?
Lines like “we got three days to feel each other” felt like genuine fragments of somebody’s life bottled up and personally delivered to us — documentation of a heart-tugging moment when there was only so much time to love a person before they had to pick up and leave. The complexity sounded simple enough to understand through Milosh’s vapor trail of a hum. It was gorgeous.
What’s more, Milosh was so genuinely fond of his audience, and so talkative, that there was no doubting his sincerity. To believe these people gave any amount of shit about their inscrutable image would be to willfully ignore the experience. When not seducing his way through a spacious maze of sultry funk, Milosh jested about the band’s lack of material. He repeatedly apologized for the set’s brevity, at times literally discussing how he would try to extend the songs in the midst of extending them (in one instance he even sang a narrative about an unfolding jam). It was rather adorable.
Milosh was verbally in awe of his amazing band — a cellist, violinist, drummer, bassist, and duo-partner Robin Hannibal on keys. Together they orchestrated Quiet Storm R&B, propulsive funk, and even a little bit of free-jazz at one instance. At each song’s end, Milosh’s darkened frame seemed to express sincere gratitude for it all. Then, after 50 short minutes, they all took a step back, and repeatedly sang the words “it’s over” in perfect five-part harmony into the empty air, quieting down until the lull evaporated.