Monday, October 29, 2012

Live Review: Ambassadors, Black Cat DC (9/4/12)

To some people, large stadium shows are the absolute best thing that they can imagine. The screaming crowds of tens of thousands of fans, the huge visual displays, and echoing sound are exhilarating to these fans, and they live for these shows. I however am far more partial to smaller shows, where the bands call out the crowd to come closer and gather around while experiencing an intimate moment with the 20 people that came out to the show, belting out every word to every song. At that distance, every move the band makes is magnified, and even the smallest errors can ruin a show, but Ambassadors were perfect throughout the night during their supporting set, giving their Washington area fans something great to talk about.

The band focused mostly on material from their latest album Litost, sprinkling in a couple older songs from their debut as well as a brand new song. The track was potentially the best track played all night, and was a definite progression for the band, adding a danceable groove to their usual style. The song pushed every member perhaps further than they had all night, and the song received the strongest reaction of the night.

It helps when your frontman knows how to absolutely take over a crowd, and Ambassadors vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sam Harris was absolutely the dominant figure of the performance. His voice was a strong combination of soulful and powerful, matching up almost perfectly to his recorded vocals, and his energy never left, even for a second. He showed his extraordinary musical talent by playing bass, guitar, and percussion throughout the night, seamlessly moving between instruments and never once seeming incompetent.

The rest of the band helped fill in the gaps behind Sam's performance. Brother Casey Harris was fantastic behind the keyboard, sparkling brightest in "Bodybag." Guitarist Noah Feldshuh was an underrated part of the performance, launching into unforgettable riffs that were especially apparent when Sam was focused more on percussion rather than guitar or bass.  While he did stay towards the side and didn't put himself out there as much as Sam, he was obviously an integral part of the performance.

It's hard to play small shows. These shows are a band's one chance to impress, and any failure could permanently set the band back. They are the band's life force, and successful ones can only launch the band to higher levels. Ambassadors were able to dominate their surroundings, creating a musical aura that was impossible to ignore, and embraced the intimate venue to send their performance to another spectrum.

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