Rhye leaves us feeling respected

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At the Commodore Ballroom on Friday, July 4

The production on Rhye’s sexily gorgeous Woman is such a virtue unto itself that we probably would have been happy to have Mike Milosh stand there and sing along to a backing tape. But Rhye live is an impressively earthy affair, with the vocalist-producer—his voice every bit as miraculous and otherworldly in real time as it is in your earphones—flanked by a crack five-piece that frequently, if not always, found ways to expand on the album’s tightly organized sounds, just-so arrangements, and air of perfect fragility.

The whole point of the exercise is erotic tension, at least when you’re playing Woman in your bedroom (it’s natural habitat, in my view), with the singer floating like some airy, androgynous expression of cosmic union over a bed of electrosoul teased to within an inch of climax. It’s a vibe that Milosh’s bandmates managed to honour instantly as the title track's polymorphous wash of looped vocals turned seamlessly into the pellucid slow-jam of “Verse”.

This was true for most of the night, but the best moments of Rhye’s performance at the Commodore Ballroom on Friday (July 4) came later, when things got aggressive. Maybe it’s just a fact of the live experience that we want our musicians to sweat and our pulses to quicken, so the mad keyboard skronk that erupted out of a too-slowly paced “3 Days” was like a shot of amyl nitrate after the languid 10-minutes that preceded it.

But still the band continued to caress rather than pound, through such delicate studio constructs as "The Fall" and "Major Minor Love". "It always takes three songs to warm up," said Milosh, speaking with uncanny precision to the little voice in my head and possibly my pants that was saying, "No shit..."

In fact, it wasn't until the seventh number of an 11-song night—how’s that for holding back?—that the ersatz disco of “Last Dance” seriously upped the pace. Now Rhye was really starting to cook, propelling the song out of its elegant dressing with drummer Zach Morillo looking like a rat finally out if its cage and Claire Courchene (who also doubled on cello) seizing the final minutes of the song with a wild trombone solo. Droplets of Orgone subsequently condensed on the ceiling, all that stately foreplay was done, the clothes had landed in a heap on the kitchen floor, and “Open”—which followed “The City”, a nod to Milosh’s 2006 album, Meme—finally gave us the finish we were aching for.

If you can accuse the man of keeping things a little too gentle up to this point, you can't fault him for dropping the hit right where it would box us all the hardest. And again, it was some furious, extended five-string intercourse between Courchene and her violin partner Thomas Lea that laid a big whammy on the whole room.

Two songs later it was over, ending, appropriately enough, with a non-album track called “It’s Over”. Milosh closed matters on little more than his unamplified voice, like a breathy goodnight after a long, beautiful fuck. They might be gone, but I'll go ahead and assume I'm not the only one who still feels respected in the morning.

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Raymond Tomlin
Want to nominate Adrian Mack's review of Rhye's concert at the Commodore Ballroom, right now, for best written, most evocative concert review of the year - not just in The Straight, but anywhere. Can't imagine it'll be topped, at least not in this town.
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