TVD Live: Youth Lagoon at the Red Palace, 11/13

Youth Lagoon revolves around Trevor Powers on the keyboard, and at the Red Palace on Sunday night, he brought in a full crowd of devoted and youthful fans.

Youth Lagoon also contains an unassuming, excellent, and intensely-focused guitarist. In addition to the two players, the show consisted of rifle-shot pre-programmed drum beats and a couple lamps with red light-bulbs. But it was all about Powers, who controls the attention of the crowd effectively even though he is not a typical or forceful front man. He does not carry the stage with power, but rather through his well-placed instrumentation and modesty.

Many of his songs start with just him, his keyboard, and his thin, almost child-like voice. Singing alone from behind a piano is not easy—it can tend towards the overly dramatic or self-indulgent, especially in front of a packed venue—but everything about the show felt remarkably intimate. Even during “Cannons,” when the guitarist stopped finger-picking calm notes to pound out some power chords, the spell of closeness remained unbroken.

Concerts are almost by definition a performance where musicians assume a persona, but something about Youth Lagoon seems startlingly real and unmediated. He is not necessarily pouring his heart out, but whatever his quavering voice sings feels very honest. He combines this rare evocation of truthfulness with pretty melodies.

The instrumental 2nd half of “Posters” is simple, uncluttered, and perfect. (The piano tinkle is similar to the theme of “The Princess Bride,” and every bit as good as that movie.) The guitar and keyboard are all self-contained, notes are well placed, nothing is straining to be heard. Everything is in the service of feeling; there are no flashes of pop ego.

The guitarist was impeccably in sync with his band leader, as if they were connected telepathically. Powers doesn’t use his voice too much, though he often takes the lead at the beginning of songs; he is also content to let instruments talk for him, and enjoys ending songs with well-placed instrumental codas. I only wish Youth Lagoon had more songs to play.

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