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All photos: Dakota Fine
All words: Phil Runco

Feel the love.  So goes the opening track to Cut Copy’s 2008 breakthrough In Ghost Colours.  And it’s a sentiment that cuts across the entirety of the band’s live performance: to see Cut Copy is quite literally to feel the love.

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It starts with the adoring audience the Australian band attracts.  On Tuesday at the 9:30 Club, that crowd bought wholesale into all Cut Copy had to purvey.

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It sang along not just with the monstrous hooks, but also with each melodic twist, each effortlessly infectious “ooh” and “aah.”  It knew the contours of the band’s song, bouncing in unison – as if on cue – when each corkscrewed build ecstatically released.

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The good vibes were reflected back from the stage: if anyone loves Cut Copy more than the legions of “cutters,” it’s Cut Copy itself. Dressed business casual, the band displayed an unharnessed enthusiasm that was endearingly unselfconscious and utterly nerdy.  The hands of lanky frontman Dan Whitford were all theatrical gestures, surging up and outward like Eva Perron on ecstasy.  His bandmates pogoed and sang along off-mic and on several occasions were moved to air drum.

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That enthusiasm helps smooth over what the band lacks creatively.  Like LCD Soundsystem (R.I.P.), Cut Copy is ultimately a pastiche band, cribbing from a well-cultivated record collection, but doing so with panache and near flawless execution.

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Regardless of whether the world needed a mash-up of “Land Down Under” and “Sexual Healing”, we have “Take Me Over”, and on Tuesday it brought down the house, Whitford vocally slip-and-sliding all over the thing.

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The band’s bread and butter is still the synthy new wave of New Order and OMD, but “Take Me Over” and the rest of this year’s Zonoscope benefits from more robust rhythmic backbones and a richer palette.  The set plucked six songs from the record, highlighting its three singles – “Take Me Over”, the pulsing “Need You Now,” and the slightly underwhelming “Where I’m Going” – along with the shimmering house of “Pharaohs & Pyramids” and the darker grooves of “Corner of the Sky” and “Sun God”, which closed the initial set with an expansive fifteen-minute electronic strobe that recalled prime-era DFA.

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Zonoscope’s songs are growers, their pleasures unfolding patiently and less obviously than its predecessors’. Unsurprisingly then, they didn’t get quite the reaction of In Ghost Colours’ more immediate bangers: “Lights and Music”, “Hearts on Fire”, “Out There on the Ice”, and, yes, “Feel the Love”.   Still, from kinetic opener “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found” on, the band tailored the set to maximize energy.

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Left out were each album’s comparatively languid slow-burners (“Strangers in the Wind”, “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat”) and Zonoscope’s ventures into spacier rock (“This All We’ve Got”, “Alisa”).

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Despite its emphasis on more dance-oriented material, Cut Copy feels very keen to establish itself as a band. The line-up has expanded to a five-piece.  They’ve weaned themselves further from recorded samples and drum tracks.  Not only is an auxiliary percussionist employed: they put his ass right up front.  It would have been nice to see them use the expanded line-up to take a crack at something a little more varied texturally, but on this night, Cut Copy, much like its lightshow, was programmed only for glorious overstimulation.

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Less engaging was opener Holy Ghost!. The Brooklyn duo falls in line with a spat of DFA signees – Shit Robot, Woolfy – who do nothing wrong while not doing anything particularly right.  The 80s touchstones are spot-on, but they’re never transcended towards something greater.

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Nevertheless, Holy Ghost! – performing with an additional two members live – is a tight operation.  Its coked-out arpeggiator and bubbly synths sounded pristine, and the band gained momentum across the six-song set, finishing strong with a nicely breathing  “Hold On” and the vibrant “Jam for Jerry”, the standout of its forthcoming self-titled LP.

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Distracting from the technical proficiency was lead singer Alex Frankel, whose thin voice crumbled under the band’s songs.  You would think a fall tour opening for LCD Soundsystem would imbue the dude with some confidence, but he comes off equally as skittish as he did last June at U Street Music Hall.

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If a month opening for Cut Copy can’t inspire the extrovert in him, I don’t know what can.

(and now, more pictures of Cut Copy… -ED)

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