Studio efforts can often belie a band’s strengths. It’s not too surprising that you’ll often find a band that shines just a bit more in a live context, but it’s the pure musical talent that often seems a constant between concerts and studio recordings. On Thursday night, however, as Here We Go Magic celebrated the release of their latest album, A Different Ship, it wasn’t any sort of energy or intangibles that made their set so entertaining. No, Here We Go Magic maintained a similar laid back ethos to their studio recordings. It was their spectacular musicianship that was on display. Though present in their studio work, obviously, seeing the precision with which each member of the band attacked their respective instruments in person made their talent even more apparent.
Up first, however, were fellow Brooklyn locals Glass Ghost who hit the stage at Knitting Factory as a two-piece synth based act. Though frontman Eliot Krimsky mentioned that this was the first time they’d played most of the songs in this incarnation, their set seemed polished enough. Though never deviating from the two keyboard and drum machine formula, Krimsky’s reedy, Neil Young approximating vocals made for an interesting accompaniment to the smooth tones the their instrumental concoctions that would in other contexts seem too familiar. The majority of their set relied on solely the keyboards, never fully gaining enough momentum to draw the crowd in entirely, but it was enough to leave me curious, and it was more than enough to whet the musical appetite for the showcase of musicianship we were about to receive.
There’s really only been one act over time that my appreciation for the complexity of what they do increased over time. Taking in a Dirty Projectors live show was enough to send my jaw to the floor at their vocal interplay. I had a similar experience watching the guitar work that the two boys from Here We Go Magic put on display Thursday night. It wasn’t even that frontman Luke Temple or guitarist Mike Bloch was undertaking typical guitar heroics, just the way their more simple parts interlocked seemed so much more impressive than it ever did on record. The texture of “Collector”’s bouncy riffs became clear when those riffs were split between two guitars and replicated with stunning accuracy. It wasn’t just the old songs that demonstrated the musical aptitude of the band. “Make Up Your Mind” similarly demonstrated the guitar prowess of Temple and Bloch, as they locked into their spiraling groove from the very beginning. Even tracks like the more downtempo “Alone But Moving,” from the band’s just released album, are brought into a new light in a live context. There’s a swagger present in Temple’s live vocals that doesn’t really come across entirely on studio recordings, especially on this newest record. That’s in no way to disparage the performances either of the band’s most recent albums, but rather a testament to the live presence of the band.
It might just be out of the sheer determination and hard work put in over the last several years of live performance, but Here We Go Magic has become, in its own way, something of a live behemoth. Sure, it wasn’t all guitar spins and pyrotechnics, but given the crowd’s reaction, it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait very long to see Here We Go Magic mounting stages noticeably larger than the one at Knitting Factory.