ODESZA’s latest album swings for the fences with the big cinematic moments, and fortunately, it translates to a live show that brings a lot more to the table than the record does on its own.
The duo arrived on the scene in 2012 on the back of a great deal of hype on SoundCloud and a strong debut album. They really made their mark with their 2014 release In Return: an ebullient, joyous, and energetic record full of memorable party tracks – most notably “Say My Name”, featuring British vocalist Zyra. All of a sudden, ODESZA were everywhere, and the mood at each show was as celebratory as the music they were releasing. I was somewhat apprehensive of how a bigger budget and the weight of inflated expectations would affect the duo, particularly after a few listens to A Moment Apart, their latest album, released this fall. The record sometimes plays like the soundtrack to a summer blockbuster and the duo don’t always nail the landing on their grandiose sonic ideas.
To their credit, Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills seem to innately understand the need to pair this record with plenty of bombast during live performances. While the drawn out textures of A Moment Apart build pretty (if somewhat sleepy) landscapes, the live show is anything but gentle. From start to finish, their performance constantly pushes the limits of the audience’s senses. Between the outrageous laser show and surreal visuals, the eight piece drum line, and the accompanying brass section joining at several points throughout, their performance on Friday night at The Anthem was an exercise in maximalism.
The Anthem was completely packed for this all-ages show – and it truly was an all-ages audience; I saw parents hoisting up their 10-year-old son in the front row. The look of absolute joy on the kid’s face was infectious, and he sang along to every word in unison with the swarm of early 20-somethings around him (and extra credit to the parents for making him wear protective ear muffs). There wasn’t much by way of pretense or guardedness throughout the venue – a welcome change from a few other shows I’ve seen at IMP’s crown jewel recently. Maybe it was a reflection of the buoyant energy Mills and Knight brought to their stage presence, or maybe it was the holiday Friday, but this was a teeming mass of people dancing and jumping for a complete 90 minutes.
This was a show that tested the limits of both the band and the venue’s technical capabilities, and it did not disappoint, even for casual fans like myself. ODESZA’s rise has been somewhat meteoric – these guys played U Street Music Hall slightly over three years ago – but on the evidence of this performance, believe the hype.