February 13, 2013

Concert Review: Passion Pit full of fun

By RICK JOHNSON

PORTLAND — Energy and fun abounded Tuesday night as Cambridge natives Passion Pit brought their danceable intensity to Portland for the first of two shows at the State Theatre, accompanied by indie darlings Matt and Kim and relative newcomers Icona Pop.

click image to enlarge

Passion Pit lead singer Michael Angelakos performs at the State Theater in Portland Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

CONCERT REVIEW

PASSION PIT, MATT AND KIM, ICONA POP

WHERE: State Theatre, Portland

WHEN: Tuesday; second show Wednesday at 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $30/$35; 800-745-3000; www.statetheatreportland.com or at the door

And judging by the reaction of the sold-out crowd, all three acts were in fine form. Not one person in the audience was able to sit still through all three sets.

First up was Icona Pop, who moved from Stockholm to London in 2011. When you’re the opening band of a three-act bill, you don’t have a lot of room to maneuver, on a stage cluttered with the draped equipment of the other bands. The synth-pop duo made the most of their small space, stomping out their dance grooves like ABBA with an attitude. The beats got everyone on the floor moving, especially when they played their hit “I Love It.”

There seemed to be just as many people in the crowd who were there for Matt and Kim as there were for Passion Pit, and they did not disappoint. Perhaps the biggest reaction the duo got was when keyboardist/vocalist Matt Johnson talked about living in Portland years ago and loving the experience.

His partner in music and romance, Kim Schifino, plays the drums with a manic energy. Several times, she stood on her drum stool, whipping the audience into a frenzy simply by clicking off a simple beat with her drumsticks.

The duo has a ritual where Kim walks out into the crowd, supported by the audience members’ hands.

They repeated this stunt at the State, and it was all the more amazing because Kim was sporting a boot cast after suffering a texting-while-walking accident (she fell down a flight of stairs!).

Clearly, Matt and Kim had as much fun in Portland as the crowd had with them.

Finally, Passion Pit took the stage, to the sounds of keyboard washes and the sight of roving, searching white spotlights. Singer Michael Angelakos was in fine form, his voice soaring above a loud but crystal clear mix. With a stage awash in blue, green and yellow lights, and three racks of keyboards dominating both the stage and the sound, the scene was reminiscent of an early ’70s Pink Floyd show.

The groove is the key to Passion Pit’s success. Even when they’re singing about heartbreak and loss, those emotions are wrapped in layers of danceable melody. The crowd on the floor jumped in unison and swayed as one, singing along to every chorus. Even the folks in the balcony found it hard to sit still as Passion Pit danced out the angst of the day.

And the band seemed to be having the time of their lives, jumping up and down at their keyboards, or running back and forth across the stage.

It was one of those rare concerts where the band, the crowd and the sound were all in synch. Now that’s a good show.

A music fan can’t ask for more. 

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook.

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