The last time Miike Snow came through Chicago, they squeezed their pulsating techno-pop sound into the tiny confines of The Empty Bottle for two sold-out shows. The energetic crowd ate up every night and suggested that the Swedish triothough a six-piece touring bandcould have filled a much larger venue. This time, the band did just that by playing the Metro, a venue with triple the capacity. Yet, due to demand, the group added a second show to appease its voracious fan, and once again you got the feeling that this band doesnt realize just how big it is.
On April 4th, the first of the groups two-night stint, the six musicians walked into the stage amid a haze of blue lights and smoke that obscured the audience from getting a good look at anyone. Instead you saw the men wearing matching purple track jackets, dark pants, and modified Phantom of the Opera masks. The juxtaposition of casual sportswear mixed with expressionless masks was spooky enough, but distorted behind the glaring smoke the scene Miike Snow was downright macabre. Of course, that makes the irresistible beat of opener Cult Logic all the more exciting. Two drumbeats into the song and the crowd began dancing and didnt stop for the next 60 minutes as the group played most of the tracks from last years addictive, eponymous debut.
One of Miike Snows most interesting qualities is their willingness to make a radio-ready pop song and then disassemble it on stage. They dont just play with the tempo or tweak the outrosalthough they do both frequently. They find a melody hidden inside the albums sleek production, a melody you probably never noticed, and bring it to the surface. Such was the case with Black and Blue, which sounded like the studio cut for the first half, and then midway through became a techno-rock banger that still resembled its pop origins if you listened closely enough.
Although American Andrew Wyatt fronts the group with his vocals, the production duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (aka Bloodshy & Avant) got their share of love situated stage right behind their drum pad and table of buttons. The two producers toyed around with their gadgets, adding feedback and distortion throughout the set and sending fuzzy percussion through the Metro. Karlsson and Winnbergs live manipulation of the songs added a DJ-set improvisation to the show that rock shows often lack. Still, the bands rock influence was visible in the blinding light show. Ive seen arena acts with less impressive light design than Miike Snow had on Sunday night. Between the laser-like beams forming 3-D prisms and tubes and the helicopter-strength search lights, you couldnt but think that maybe Miike Snow does realize how big their future is.
Although the crowd had been spellbound the entire evening, the energy hit its apex on Animal, the albums lead track and the bands most successful single. The circus-ready tune brought a little levity back to the set, despite the songs bittersweet mantra: Id change shapes to hide in this place, but Im still, Im still an animal. The experience of a near sell-out crowd bouncing in unison and harmonizing every line was as entertaining as the stage show itself, especially among a crowd of indie fans who are often too cool to uncross their arms.
Spanish dance-rock band Delorean delivered an energetic opening set. Judging by the response certain tracks got, plenty of people showed up just as excited to see them as Miike Snow. The band creates a polished mix of alternative rock and pop tendencies on record that I doubted would translate well in a live setting. However, that fear was unfounded, as was evdenced on Deli, the standout track from last years noteworthy Ayrton Senna EP. Frontman Ekhi Lopetegis nasal vocals should probably grate on your nerves, but they just endear you. Lopetegi sounds like a boy in love who wants to sing his songs and play his guitar to anyone who will listen. Based on the hyper group of listeners jumping up and down during Deloreans set, I can say that hes got plenty of people who are willing to listen to him.